Captain’s last dance that ended in failure… Son Heung-min, the first trophy he never touched

February 8, 2024 | by

The “Last Dance” of Son Heung-min (32, Tottenham), the captain of the national soccer team, has unfortunately ended.

The national team, led by coach Jurgen Klinsmann (60·Germany), failed to advance to the finals after losing 0-2 to Jordan, an ambush in the Middle East, in the semifinals of the 2023 Qatar Asian Cup at Alayan Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on the 7th (Korea time). Korean soccer’s long-cherished dream of becoming the third Asian leader in 64 years since the first Hong Kong tournament in 1956 and the second tournament held in Korea in 1960 has now been postponed again to the Saudi Arabian tournament three years later.

Son, who aspired to win the title more than anyone else, seemed to be in shock. Whenever he failed to achieve his goal and was frustrated, he collapsed on the pitch and cried his eyes out, but after the match against Jordan on the day, his tears seemed to have dried up. He just stared at his opponents blankly while encouraging them by saying hello, and when he stood in front of the microphone, he lowered his head for a moment and choked up.

He just repeatedly said, “I’m sorry.” Son said, “We did our best, but we ended up with this mistake. We didn’t live up to our expectations. I don’t know what to say. We were not good enough.”

Son’s first win at the senior level went up in smoke. Born in 1992, Son does not have much time left to play for A-match with the national flag. Given the past actions of former captains of the national team, including Park Ji-sung (43, retired) and Ki Sung-yueng (35, FC Seoul), it would not be strange to put down the national flag immediately. This is why he cannot promise to play in the next Asian Cup. When answering the possibility of “Klinsman” promoting at the 2026 North American World Cup, Son said, “I need to think about whether I will be able to play for the national team in the future. The coach may not choose me, and I don’t know the future.”

Son did not have much chance to win the title. The only career title for an adult is the gold medal he won at the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, in which he was selected as a wild card player for the U-23 national team. He played for 꽁머니지급 Hamburg, Leverkusen (Germany) and Tottenham (England) for a long time, but has never been able to kiss a trophy. He has only reached the top of the podium in the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League (EPL), and the League Cup.

The same applied to the Asian Cup. At the 2011 Qatar Championship, the team lost to Japan in the semifinals via penalty shootout, and at the 2015 Australia Championship, it lost to Australia, the host country, in the final after a fierce battle. At the 2019 UAE Championship, it ended in the quarterfinals.

Like Argentina’s hero Lionel Messi (Inter Miami), who has long been relieved by winning the 2022 Qatar World Cup, everyone wanted Son Heung-min to smile brightly and lift the Asian Cup trophy, but considering the precarious performances of the “Klinsmanho” during this tournament, the victory may have been nothing but greed. Son Heung-min left the tournament forlornly with three goals in the 14th minute of the second half of extra time when he was 1-1 against Australia, leading to the semifinals with an exquisite free-kick come-from-behind goal.


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