After South Korea’s 2-1 victory over Portugal on Friday, which advanced them to the round of 16, Son Heung-min dubbed the agonizing wait for their position in the World Cup knockout rounds “the longest six minutes of my life.”
The Taeguk Warriors are hoping that Uruguay won’t be able to increase their two-goal lead over Ghana in the other Group H match after the Korean captain set up Hwang Hee-chan to score the game-winning goal in the 91st minute against Fernando Santos’ team.
The team watched on electronic devices as the South Americans ultimately lost when another goal would have put Uruguay into the round of 16 at Korea’s expense on goal-difference. The Uruguay team huddled together on the Education City Stadium pitch.
“It was the longest six minutes of my life, but in the circle we were really positive,” said Son, who will be playing in the World Cup knockout rounds for the first time in his career.
“I said: if Uruguay score one more goal, I’m very proud of this team and very happy that you gave it everything and we will see what’s going to happen.
“We were just waiting, but it was a long wait.”
The 2-0 victory over Germany in Russia four years ago, which eliminated the reigning champions, was echoed in Korea’s victory over Portugal.
Son scored in the dying seconds of that match in Kazan, but the victory was meaningless because Mexico’s 3-0 defeat of Sweden meant that both teams advanced at the expense of the team led by Shin Tae-yong.
“This time was different,” said Son. “We were waiting for another result but I didn’t even think about four years ago because I was so happy and I was so proud at this moment.”
On Monday, the Koreans will play tournament favorites Brazil, with Son praising the team’s cohesion.
“We spend more time than with friends and family,” he said. “In the camp the guys are already here more than a month.
“We’re really, really close. I’m really grateful to those who didn’t play, they could be sad but they didn’t show their disappointment.
“They gave everything on the bench and support us and that makes a huge difference, to be one team than going in different ways.
“I’m very happy, very grateful to lead this team and have this team. This makes a huge difference.”
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