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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Son Heung-min seeking Asian Games gold with one eye on Spurs progress

South Korean forward to contest gold medal match against Japan before linking back up with Tottenham after the international break who have started the Premier League season with three straight wins

South Korea's Son Heung-min, right, is banking on performances such as Lee Seung-woo's to continue playing for Tottenham. EPA
South Korea's Son Heung-min, right, is banking on performances such as Lee Seung-woo's to continue playing for Tottenham. EPA

Even with a gold medal on offer, and the weighty personal ramifications that engenders, Son Heung-min is trying to keep abreast of Tottenham Hotspur’s fine start to the 2018/19 Premier League.

It isn’t the easiest, granted, given Son is with South Korea at the Asian Games in Indonesia, where the six-hour time difference makes some matches in England a little more difficult to watch.

The Spurs forward slept through his team’s impressive 3-0 victory against Manchester United on Monday night. That is understandable, though, with Son having spent the day earlier helping South Korea to a 4-3 extra-time win in the quarter-final against Uzbekistan.

“It was too late, it was two o’clock in the morning here so I was sleeping, but I was very happy when I saw the result,” he said. “I was very happy for that and very proud of my teammates. I’m here, but I’m still watching my teammates, so I was very happy.”

Son won’t meet up with his Tottenham teammates until midway through next month. The 26 year old will miss this weekend’s league trip to Watford – South Korea contest the Asian Games final against Japan on Saturday – and then joins his senior national team for friendlies against Costa Rica and Chile.

Son has played only once for his club side this season, coming on as a late substitute in the opening-day triumph at Newcastle United. However, Spurs have not missed him too much, with Mauricio Pochettino’s men second in the table having collected three wins from three.

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Tottenham's Son Heung-min focused on 'trying to make South Korea happy'

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Brazilian Lucas Moura has excelled in Son’s absence, but the South Korean is simply happy to see his teammates get off to a fast start.

“I’ve missed already three or four weeks and we have the international break before I will be back,” he said. “I’m ready for that. Even when I don’t play I will be waiting for my chance. We’re one team and I have to be ready to play for my team.”

“Of course, it’s a bit different with the weather and the humidity, and the pitches are also different, but I’ll be ready when I go back to Tottenham.”

Right now, Son’s focus is on a defining match against Japan. Should he guide his national team to victory on Saturday, he will avoid military service in his home country.

All able-bodied South Korean men must complete 21 months' service, but exemptions are offered to athletes who win gold at the Asian Games or any medal at the Olympics.

“It’s a final,” Son said following Wednesday’s 3-1 victory in the semi-final against Vietnam, although he remains reluctant to talk about the possibility of military service. “I can’t say anything, but it’s very important. We’re already here in the final to win something, not just coming to the final just to play it.

“Korea wants to win and I think we deserve to win. We’re strong enough mentally, physically. We can beat any team in the final.”

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