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Son wants Korea Republic improvement ahead of final round of Asian Qualifiers


Goyang: Son Heung-min has insisted that Korea Republic must up their game in the final round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers after they rounded off their Group H campaign with a 2-1 victory over Lebanon at Goyang Stadium on Sunday. 

The come-from-behind victory – in which Son scored the winner from the spot – ensured that the Taeguk Warriors finished the second round of Asian Qualifiers unbeaten, having dropped just two points from their six matches.

But, despite winning all three of their games and scoring 12 goals in the process since Group H resumed in early June, the Tottenham Hotspur forward believes there is plenty of room for improvement.

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“Honestly, we have to be better in all aspects; we qualified from the second round quite easily, but the final round will not be easy," cautioned Son, who hopes to lead his country to a 10th successive FIFA World Cup.

"We have to be prepared better mentally. This will be my third time taking part in the final round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, so I will pass on my experience to the other players. In the final round, we have to improve across all areas.”

The East Asians fell behind to Soony Saad's opener in the 12th minute before Song Min-kyu levelled shortly after the interval and Son struck the decisive goal from the spot midway through the second half.

Son's goal was his first for Korea in 20 months and he dedicated it to his friend and former Tottenham teammate Christian Eriksen, who collapsed on the pitch during Denmark's UEFA European Championship 2020 opener against Finland.

“I was asleep, so I couldn’t watch the game and I only heard the news when I woke up," said Son, who spent five seasons with Eriksen in London.

"As a footballer and a colleague who played with him, I felt very anxious and worried about him. Eriksen is a close friend of mine, so his condition was weighing on my mind while playing today.

“Regarding my goal, more than the fact that I scored in an international match for the first time in 20 months, I am happy that we won.

"It was a mistake that led to the first goal, so it’s our own fault to have got off to a bad start. But it’s promising that we were able to turn it around in the second half.”

And while COVID-19 has meant the Korean players have not been able to meet up for international duty as regularly as they would have expected, Son believes the time spent together in Goyang can create even better unity within the squad.

“Some of the players playing in foreign leagues arrived three weeks ago due to COVID-19 protocols, so we spent a long time together," added Son, who turns 29 next month.

"I told the squad that I appreciate them. There are players who didn’t get enough game time, but no one complained about it. I am blessed to be a captain of this team.”

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