Son: A dream to play against Germany
Korea Republic were already 4-0 up when Son Heungmin was brought on as a 70th-minute substitute in their opening match against Fiji. The former Bayer Leverkusen attacker, who moved to English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2015, added his name to the scoresheet just two minutes later, helping the Asians to an 8-0 triumph.
Ahead of Korea's second group game against Germany on Sunday, FIFA.com spoke exclusively with Son about the special nature of the match, meeting former team-mates and his desire to win a medal.
FIFA.com: How do you rate your team's performance in the opening game? Son Heungmin: In the first half we had a bit of trouble with how deep the opposition were playing as they had ten men back behind the ball. It was very difficult to score. Fortunately we were able to break the deadlock before half-time. We had more space after that and had more chances. I'm not 100 per cent satisfied with our display and I know we can play better.
In your second game you will go up against Germany. As you played in the Bundesliga for a long time, will the match be extra special for you?It's a special game for me. I still know a lot of the players, like Julian Brandt and Lars Bender. We played together and I'm very excited. It's been a dream of mine to play against Germany with my national team.
To what extent can your experiences in Germany help you on Sunday?That's hard to say. The German players have a lot of quality and most of them play in a strong league in the Bundesliga. I played there and obviously was able to gain experience. I'll have to speak with my team-mates about what we can do better and to help them.
You played in Hamburg for a long time. Horst Hrubesch, Germany's coach, is an idol at the club. Will you greet each other?Why not? He's a legend at Hamburg. I had a very good time there and will never forget it. I won't forget the fans either. Hamburg's my second home.
How important is your German coach Uli Stielike for your development?Very important. We wanted a European coach at all costs. I thought it'd be good to have a coach who speaks German. We've improved a lot since Uli Stielke's been here, both tactically and in general. For us - and for me - he's very important for helping South Korea progress further.
You were very successful at the Asian Cup, meaning the expectations on you now are undoubtedly huge. How do you deal with the pressure?It's not too bad. People talk about me more because I've been playing very well for my club and have also achieved a lot in the Bundesliga and the Champions League. It's just a shame I didn't win any titles. People's hopes are resting on my shoulders, that much is clear. I can deal with that. I'm strong when I'm under pressure. I like it.
How would you describe your role in the team? Do you consider yourself a leader?I think so. I'm not the oldest but am among the oldest. I have to pack the boys together, take them with me and off we go ! I'm the most experienced player.
To conclude, what does it mean to you to participate at the Olympics?It's very special. I really wanted to be here because I've already played at the World Cup and at two Asian Cups. The only thing I was missing was the Olympics. Our coach here is absolutely brilliant. I first met him when I was very young. We've spoken about that a lot. He was also desperate to have me in the squad. I want to achieve something here. I didn't come to have fun. I know it's not easy, but we want to win a medal.