‘Zombie football’ keeps Son and South Korea alive at Asian Cup

South Korea’s Asian Cup performances have been dubbed “zombie football” but Son Heung-min says the way they keep coming back to life shows the team have the spirit to go all the way.

The Koreans rose from the dead again in Friday’s 2-1 quarter-final victory over Australia, with Son winning a 96th-minute penalty that Hwang Hee-chan converted to take the game to extra time. BSS

Skipper Son then sealed the win with a sublime free-kick in the 104th minute to send South Korea into a semi-final against Jordan.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s men have only won one game inside 90 minutes in Qatar, and Hwang’s penalty was the fourth time in five games that they have scored in second-half injury time.

Korean media have compared the team to undead movie monsters but Tottenham’s Son said it was a testament to their resilience.

“Whatever names people give it isn’t important — one thing I can say for sure is that this is just helping us stick together even more,” he said.

“Playing 120 minutes is painful, it’s not easy. But the spirit the boys are showing is making us stick together.

“I can say with confidence that our strength is that we are all together,” he added.

South Korea are trying to win the Asian Cup for the first time in 64 years — and they seem intent on doing it the hard way.

They needed an injury-time own goal to salvage a point against Jordan in the group stage, before conceding a last-gasp equaliser in a 3-3 draw with Malaysia.

They beat Roberto Mancini’s Saudi Arabia on penalties in the last 16 after scoring a 99th-minute equaliser to take the game to extra time.

– ‘No excuses’ –

South Korea’s squad boasts Europe-based stars such as Son, Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in and Bayern Munich’s Kim Min-jae.

Klinsmann said he wants his team to show their quality from the start.
“We go a goal down and then we all know we can only go forward,” said the German.

“Then they start to speed things up, they start to create chances, they start to have movement off the ball that we always want to see from the beginning.”

Klinsmann and some of his players — excluding Son — have come in for fierce criticism from Korean fans and media.

Klinsmann believes the players are “worrying a little too much”.

“Maybe because the expectations at home are that we’re going to bring this title home, maybe this is a little bit in the back of our minds, ‘What if not?’,” he said.

“Maybe that blocks it in the first half a little bit.” Son said the games against Saudi Arabia and Australia were probably the first time in his career that he had played extra-time matches back to back.

He said the experience was “not as bad as you think” and refused to blame tiredness for his team’s patchy performances.

Their rematch with Jordan, this time for a place in the final, is on Tuesday, giving them four days to recover from their latest comeback. “I think it’s more about the mentality,” said Son.

“I’m playing for my country and there should be no excuses.”

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