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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Tottenham's Son Heung-min warns of tough route as South Korea seek Asian Games gold

Son's volley in a 1-0 win against Kyrgyzstan on Monday fired his team into the last-16 clash against the tournament's top-ranked team Iran

Son Heung-min speaks to the media following the game against Kyrgyzstan where his volley sent South Korea through to a last-16 clash against Iran at the Asian Games. AFP
Son Heung-min speaks to the media following the game against Kyrgyzstan where his volley sent South Korea through to a last-16 clash against Iran at the Asian Games. AFP

Son Heung-min says South Korea face a tough run to the Asian Games final after failing to top their group where they must overcome fellow regional heavyweights Iran for a place in the quarter-finals.

Son's volley in a 1-0 win against Kyrgyzstan on Monday fired his team into the last-16 clash but South Korea had to settle for runner-up in Group E despite finishing level on six points with Malaysia, who surprisingly topped the group following a shock 2-1 win over Son's team last week.

Son, 26, warned his young teammates they will need to be more clinical in front of goal against the tournament's top-ranked team.

"The Iran team are very strong. We need to prepare very well," Son said.

"We are all professional players, so I think they should learn by themselves - I don't think I need to say anything to them.

"But we know what we need to improve on for the next game."

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The Tottenham Hotspur winger has an added incentive for wanting to win gold in Indonesia: nothing less will be enough to exempt Son from his 21-month compulsory military service.

Victory against Iran on Thursday would likely see South Korea face a highly-rated Uzbekistan side in the quarter-finals.

"Iran and another strong team Uzbekistan could both be the champion for this tournament," Son added. "We all have the chance to get the gold medal."

Son is playing at the Asian Games after being granted special permission by Spurs, with whom he signed a new, five-year contract last month.

He is one of three wild cards - players aged over 23 - selected to play in the U23 tournament.

Iran's senior team are Asia's top-ranked side, standing at 33 in Fifa's rankings, and impressed in a tough World Cup group featuring Spain and Portugal.

Uzbekistan, who won Asian Games gold in 1994, play Hong Kong in the last 16 having won every group game without conceding a goal.

South Korea manager Kim Hak-bum echoed his star forward's warnings, describing Iran as "quite powerful".

"Every match could be our last match," Kim said.

The UAE meet Games hosts Indonesia in the last 16 on Friday. The rest of the line up is: Palestine v Syria, Vietnam v Bahrain, China v Saudi Arabia, Malaysia v Japan and Bangladesh v North Korea.

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