HE DID IT! Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-Min earned two assists as South Korea defeated Japan 2-1 in extra time in the finals of the Asian Games football tournament in Indonesia on Saturday. Lee Seung-Woo and Hwang Hee-Chan both scored in the first half of extra time for the Taeguk Warriors, with Sonny assisting both, and Korea hung on after a late goal from Japan.
The win is is huge because it earns the entire Korean squad — including Sonny — an exemption from two years of mandatory military service. This was Sonny’s last chance to get an exemption, and he left everything on the field.
The match was a cagy one in regular time, with Korea going on the attack and Japan content to sit back and absorb pressure. It reminded me a lot of watching any Premier League team play against Burnley. Asian Games golden boot winner Hwang Ui-Jo went close in the first half and there were numerous missed opportunities by Korea whose finishing failed them.
This wasn’t exactly a Mourinho-school bus parking exhibition, though, as Japan had a number of good opportunities on the counter. Korea’s defense rose to the challenge and was able to block or save all of Japan’s biggest opportunities.
Both of Korea’s goals came in the first half of extra time. After a broken corner, Son had the ball in the box and tried to take a touch towards the spot, but his toe poke instead found Lee Seung-Woo with a nifty little pass and Lee buried the ball in the back of the net.
Korea’s second came courtesy of an absolutely immense long header from Hwang Hee-Chan, one that even Harry Kane would’ve been impressed with.
It looked like Korea were on their way to a comfortable win, but Japan managed to claw a goal back in the second half of extra time and nearly got the equalizer in the 115th minute, but Korea was able to scramble it away. Sonny came off in Korea went into time-wasting mode after that and was able to hold off the Blue Samurai to secure the win.
The win will send Son Heung-Min back to Tottenham Hotspur extremely tired, but also extremely happy. After everything he’s endured, nobody deserves this more and you could see what it meant to him.
This is a mammoth result for Sonny, and nobody deserves it more than he does! Take a bow, Son Heung-Min and South Kore!