Captain Sonny thanks teammates for sacrifices in easy World Cup qualifying win

June 7, 2024

Goals came fast and furious for South Korea, as they pounded Singapore 7-0 in their latest World Cup qualifying match Thursday in Singapore.

South Korean captain Son Heung-min scored a brace to contribute to the rout, and the man they call “Sonny,” as he often does, deflected credit to everyone else around him.

Son was particularly effusive of seven players who were called up to the senior national team for the first time for this Group C contest in the second round of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

“They made so many sacrifices and tried really hard to adjust to the rest of the team quickly. Their efforts led to such a satisfying result,” Son said in a televised interview at the National Stadium in Singapore. “I am really proud of them. And I think we were able to put on an entertaining show for our fans. It’s never easy to play away from home, and it’s great to go home with this huge win in the bag.”

Of the seven new faces, five saw action on Thursday. Two of them connected for a goal, as Gimcheon Sangmu FC defender Park Seung-wook set up Stoke City midfielder Bae Jun-ho for the 6-0 goal in the 79th minute.

With this victory, South Korea improved to 13 points with one match remaining in Group C. They have locked down a spot in the third round, as they are guaranteed to finish no lower than second place in the group, regardless of the result against China in the finale on Tuesday in Seoul.

On a personal note for Son, he now has 48 international goals, only two behind former striker Hwang Sun-hong on the South Korean scoring list. Cha Bum-kun’s all-time record of 58 goals is also within striking distance.

“I am honored to have this kind of opportunity, and I want to thank everyone who’s helped me along the way. But this is obviously not the end,” Son said. “Physically, I am feeling better than ever. I’d love to play even better football going forward.”

This was South Korea’s third straight match under a temporary coach. The Korea Football Association (KFA) fired Jurgen Klinsmann in February after South Korea were eliminated in the semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup but has not yet found his permanent replacement.

For two World Cup qualifiers in March, Hwang, then head coach of the men’s under-23 national team, was brought in as a caretaker manager.

The KFA had set out to find a new full-time head coach by early May but negotiations with their preferred candidates broke down. The KFA then named former K League coach Kim Do-hoon as the caretaker boss for the two World Cup qualifiers in June.

Son acknowledged that going through two temporary head coaches has not been easy for anyone involved — the players, the coaches themselves and even fans.

“This is something we as players have to live with. Even if it takes time, it’s important to find the right coach for us,” Son said. “Coach Kim has been trying his best to accommodate us under the circumstances, and we’ve been trying to do our part as well. So things have been going well so far.”