SYDNEY (AFP) – South Korea forward Son Heung-Min has warned team-mates and an expectant nation to keep their feet on the ground after reaching their first Asian Cup final in 27 years.
The Korean pin-up’s sparkling performances have put his country within touching distance of a first Asian Cup title since 1960 and after Monday’s 2-0 win over Iraq, the pressure will be on them to finish the job.
With hosts Australia heavy favourites to beat the United Arab Emirates in the second semi-final, however, Son knows it will be a tough ask, despite having beaten the Socceroos in the group stages.
“It’s far too early for us to be talking about the title,” the jet-heeled Bayer Leverkusen star told reporters in fluent German. “Every game has such a different complexion that you just can’t say.
“We still have a massive game to play in the final so we can’t afford to be talking about lifting the trophy.”
Son, who struck twice in extra-time to sink Uzbekistan 2-0 in the quarter-finals, tormented Iraq in rainy Sydney as goals from Lee Jeong-Hyeop and Kim Young-Gwon swept South Korea into their first Asian Cup final since 1988, when they lost to Saudi Arabia.
“I felt we dominated the game,” said Son, thanking the vocal “Red Devils” fans for their support. “We certainly gave it everything we could in order to get the victory. Our supporters were amazing and gave us that extra power to see the game through.”
South Korea have yet to concede in five games on their way to the final, but coach Uli Stielike — nicknamed the “stopper” during his playing days for his dogged defensive qualities — acknowledged his side’s stinginess could come back to haunt them in the final.
“This situation can be very dangerous,” said the former West German international, who spent eight years at Real Madrid as a player after joining the Spanish giants in 1977.
“It’s what happens when you concede a goal and how you react that is important. You can’t let the players get their heads down. You have to be prepared for that and have a reaction.”