Heung-min Son interview: The longest six minutes of his life, facing Richarlison and expressing his pride in leading his country 

To hear Son use the 'F' word, even in the context of an inspirational team-talk at the most nerve-shredding moment in South Korea's football history, is quite the surprise.
Heung-min Son interview: The longest six minutes of his life, facing Richarlison and expressing his pride in leading his country 

MOMENT TO REFLECT: South Korea's Son Heung-min reacts at the final whistle after victory over Portugal. Pic: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

HEUNG MIN SON is widely regarded as a model professional and a polite young man, even prompting Antonio Conte to joke, “he is the sort of guy I'd like my daughter to marry!” 

So, to hear him use the 'F' word, even in the context of an inspirational team-talk at the most nerve-shredding moment in South Korea's football history, is quite the surprise.

But Son proved he has picked up the best and worst of his fellow footballers' vernacular when he was describing on Friday evening, those fraught six minutes as the Koran squad stood in a huddle on the centre circle of the Education City stadium in Doha.

Moments earlier the final whistle had blown on Korea's 2-1 victory over Portugal, with Son setting up Wolves striker Hee-Chan Hwang for a dramatic late winner that took them ahead of Uruguay into second place in Group H.

But one more goal for Uruguay, who were still playing Ghana and leading 2-0, would put Luis Suarez's team through to face Brazil in the last 16.

So it was a tense time as thousands of Korean fans in the stands, and the Korean players on the pitch waited for the final minutes of added time to be played out down the road at the Al Janoub stadium.

They were all watching the actions on smartphones, but Son was prompted to reassure his team that they already made their country proud.

“It was the longest six minutes of my life, but in the circle we were really positive,” said the Korean captain and talisman.

“The guys were saying, 'we deserve this'. Then I said, ‘look whatever happens, even if Uruguay score one more goal, I’m f***ing proud of this team and I'm very happy that we gave everything, we’ll see what going to happen’.

“And everyone was just waiting - but those minutes were long minutes!” 

When confirmation came through that Korea had reached the last 16 against the odds, the scenes of celebration in the stands and on the pitch were emotional. Son broke down in tears, this time in joy rather than those of regret he had four years ago in Russia, when Korea beat Germany in their final group game but failed to qualify for the knock-out stage.

“It was a similar moment. We beat Germany 2-0 and if Mexico had won the other game that day maybe we would have gone through but this time was different. We were waiting on other results and I didn’t even think about four years ago. I was just so happy and so proud at that moment. What else can I say? I was really happy and really proud.” 

Son's leadership on the pitch was even more important because Korea's coach Paulo Bento was banished to the stands for the game, having got a red card for his protests after their draw with Uruguay in their previous match.

“The boss is really important,” added Son. 

“We didn’t want his last game to be not on the bench so the players knew we had to give everything, to be all together. Until Thursday we were training together and trained well. He believed in us and in his coaching staff so it was perfectly done by him.” 

Asked if the Portugese coach had given any special insights into Cristiano Ronaldo and Co, Son replied: “What secrets? We know them, they are superstars, world class players, we know what they do so the boss didn’t tell us any secrets. We were watching clips of the team, the players understood them well and we did a fantastic job.

“Sometimes results are different to what you expect and what we did was an unbelievable performance. Everyone gave everything and I’m very happy and very proud to me with this team.

And in the dressing room afterwards, Son went to each player, including unused squad members, to give them a hug and word of thanks. It is a tight-knit squad. 

“We are spending more time together than with our friends and families. In the camp, the guys have already been here for more than a month so we are close, really close. I’m grateful because those who didn’t play might have been really sad but they didn’t show their disappointment, they gave everything on the bench to support us and this makes a huge difference to be one team. I’m happy and grateful to lead this team. It makes a huge difference.” 

They can now look forward to playing Brazil, where Son will come up against his Tottenham team-mate Richarlison and the rest of the Selecao's superstars. 

“Richy and Brazil? Let's see what happens,” he said, with his customary smile.

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