Son Heung-min grateful for November break and raring to go for South Korea at 2019 Asian Cup
Tottenham forward will not link up with Bento's squad until the final group match against China on January 16
South Korea forward Son Heung-min credits a break from international duty in November for sparking him into the sort of form that his country hopes will end a near 60-year wait for a second Asian Cup.
After appearing in all three group matches at the World Cup, Son spearheaded the side that clinched Asian Games gold in Indonesia in August before returning to the rigorous demands of the Premier League in August with club side Tottenham Hotspur.
Understandably, the forward failed to catch fire in the early part of the campaign as he was used sparingly by manager Mauricio Pochettino. An agreement between the club and South Korean Football Association saw Son miss the November international friendlies against Australia and Uzbekistan, after which the fleet-footed forward rediscovered his scoring touch, scoring in the 3-1 win over Chelsea on November 24.
That sparked a run of eight goals in his next nine league games for Spurs including the final goal in the recent 3-0 win away to Cardiff City on Tuesday.
Son said the break from the November internationals have helped him avoid mid-season burnout.
"I was tired after the Asian Games because in that tournament it was playing after [every] two or three days," he said.
"It [November] was a turning point for me because I was tired and I didn't travel. It was good to have this time, some days off, and hard sessions with the team."
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Despite regularly qualifying for the World Cup finals, South Korea have only ever won their own continent's showpiece twice, with their last triumph back in 1960.
Paulo Bento's side will try to rectify that this year in the UAE when South Korea kick off their Group C campaign against the Philippines in Dubai on Monday.
However, as part of the agreement with Tottenham, 26-year-old Son will miss that match as well as the fixture against Kyrgyzstan on January 11, but will be available for the final group match against China on January 16.
Should South Korea make it all the way to the final on February 1, Son would miss five matches for Spurs.
"It is very important to be right mentally at the Asian Cup and to come back with a strong mind and be strong physically," Son added.
"The Asian Cup is big for us because we have not won it for 59 years. I'm going there not just to enjoy it, I am going there to win something and come back with confidence."
Updated: January 3, 2019 01:06 PM