Delighted Bento hails Son Heung-min impact
Abu Dhabi: Head coach Paulo Bento has praised the impact Son Heung-min had on his Korea Republic side following the livewire midfielder’s stellar performance during Wednesday's 2-0 defeat of China PR at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
Son, who only arrived in the Emirates earlier this week after being released by club side Tottenham Hotspur, proved to be a key figure throughout the victory, earning a successfully converted first-half penalty and then seeing Kim Min-Jae head home from his corner on 51 minutes.
The win was the Taeguk Warriors’ third in as many games, a run of form which has seen them finish top of Group C and leave Bento admitting that the addition of Son brings a whole host of positives.
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“Every side become stronger when they have their best players, and Son is one of our best players. He gives us more options going forward, an area that we need strengthening,” explained the Portuguese tactician.
“We made the decision to play Son because every coach wants to field the players who can influence games. He is a player who can operate in different positions, something which, in turn, allows the team to play in different ways. He was also in a good condition to play, so we decided that he should play against China.
“We are very happy with the effort he made, but what is important at this exact moment in time is that Son and the rest of the team enjoy this result, rest and then focus on the Round of 16.”
That Round of 16 encounter is against one of the best third-placed finishers from either gGoup A, B or F with Bento still eyeing further improvement despite his team’s excellent start to the competition.
“The challenge now is to try and improve game after game,” he said.
“It is true that we won all our group stage games and we did not concede any goals. However, the competition after this game is going to be different. Until now it was the group stage and we are approaching the knockout stage when every team can win as it is just one game.
“We need to be aware, focus on our team and try to go as far as possible.”
Meanwhile, opposite number Marcello Lippi was quick to admit that China PR were second best against Korea Republic, although the one-time FIFA World Cup winner insists all focus is now on his side’s Round of 16 clash with Thailand.
“I have to admit that Korea Republic were very fast, strong and excellent technically, they were good in every aspect. That is something that we must accept,” he said.
“I was expecting a difficult game, especially as they started with their 11 best players. We tried our best, but we have to admit that they were stronger than us, they were better than us.
“Korea Republic will be one of the favourites [to win the title] as they will beat other sides, not just China. They are a strong side.
“We have enough time to recover, and now we have to focus on the next match as that is the key fixture, not the one we have just had against Korea Republic.”
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