Can Son Heung-min Help South Korea Repeat 2022 Heroics

Korea Republic, also known as South Korea, are one of the fancied teams at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. In fact, the nation hold the proud distinction of being the first independent Asian country to participate in a World Cup when they did so in 1954.

However, Korea Republic’s World Cup story will forever be linked with their run to the semi-finals in 2002 when they were co-hosts with neighbours Japan. Before that, South Korea had never progressed past the group stage in their history. That tournament transformed the peninsula into a football-mad nation and set the bar for future World Cups.

Since then, they’ve failed to reach those lofty expectations, although a run to the round of 16 at South Africa 2010 was respectable, especially considering they navigated their way through a group consisting of Argentina, Nigeria and Greece.

Qatar 2022 will be South Korea’s 11th total and tenth consecutive World Cup appearance.

Leading the line will be Son Heung-min, who has won the 2020 FIFA Puskas Award and last season’s Golden Boot in the Premier League in England.

Son, who began his European footballing journey with Hamburg’s youth team after leaving FC Seoul, is now undisputedly Asia’s top player and will captain his side in what will be his third World Cup.

Son has racked up three World Cup goals thus far, and if he adds another in Qatar, he will become Korea’s all-time top scorer at the tournament, surpassing Park Jisung and Ahn Junghwan. Were he to score two more, he would become Asia’s leading scorer at the World Cup, overtaking Keisuke Honda.

After a lacklsutre 2018 FIFA World Cup capmpign in Russia, Son is set to return to the world stage as a far more complete player and a mature leader. Now a veteran, Son no longer says that South Korea “are the weakest team at the World Cup” or that “the World Cup is scary” as he so frequently repeated in the past. The big question for manager Paulo Bento, whose possession-based football inevitably slows down the tempo of the game at times, is how to maximise Son’s obvious talents and abilities.

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