Son Heung-min says he may never be able to forget Asian Cup loss

February 5, 2015


INCHEON (Yonhap) — It has been a few days since the 2015 AFC Asian Cup ended with South Korea losing to Australia 2-1 in the final, and yet South Korean star Son Heung-min said Thursday the narrow defeat in extra time still gnaws at him.

“I think the disappointment will stay with me forever,” Son told reporters at Incheon International Airport, as he was heading back to Germany to join his Bundesliga club, Bayer Leverkusen. “Because we lost in the final, the feeling of disappointment will still be there when we play the next World Cup and the next Asian Cup.”

James Troisi scored the extra-time winner for the host Australia. Before that, it was Son’s last-gasp goal that sent the match into extra period. South Korea had been down 1-0 with the clock ticking down in the second half when Son scored his team-leading third goal of the tournament.

South Korea ultimately came up short of ending its 55-year title drought at the Asian Cup, and Son was inconsolable afterward.

The 22-year-old winger had also played at the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar, where South Korea settled for third place. He said he competed at this year’s tournament as a more mature player.

“Four years ago, I was just a kid who didn’t know any better,” Son recalled. “This time, I think I was able to prove my worth as a player on the national team.”

With Bayer Leverkusen, Son enjoyed a successful first half of the season, having netted 11 goals in 26 matches in all competitions. He sits a goal shy of tying his Bundesliga career high and will return to action on the weekend.

“It doesn’t matter how many more goals I score,” he said. “It’s more important for the team to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.”

The top three clubs in the Bundesliga each season qualify for the group stage at the following season’s Champions League. Bayer Leverkusen is currently ranked fifth after 19 matches, one point behind the third-place Borussia Monchengladbach with 15 matches remaining. A fourth-place finish will earn a club a berth in the playoff round for the Champions League.

“Our team might fall off the top tier,” Son added. “From now on, every match is crucial and I will put the team ahead of any personal ambitions. It’s important to play well on my club to be able to make the national team.”