Son keeps eye on Spurs as he chases precious Asian gold

Andrew MARSZAL
Tottenham Hotspur's South Korean striker Son Heung-min is playing at the Asian Games after being granted special permission by the club

Son Heung-min said he's cheering on his Spurs team-mates in the Premier League even as he undertakes a difficult mission for gold in far-flung Indonesia that could make or break his career.

The South Korea forward said he had followed Spurs' "positive" 3-1 win over Fulham from thousands of miles away at the Asian Games, where a gold medal would exempt him from his 21-month compulsory military service.

Son, 26, was speaking after he scored the only goal in South Korea's 1-0 win over Kyrgyzstan that sent the defending champions into a last-16 clash with Iran.

"Of course I always follow Tottenham -- I was very happy because Lucas scored his first Premier League goal for us, and Harry (Kane) scored in August," said Son.

"I'm following wherever I go. When they play Manchester United I will support them."

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.

"I can't say I'm 100 percent sure to win the gold medal. We are on the way to make something, and to win some trophies," he said.

"But I'm not thinking about it already, the final... We can enjoy this evening, and from tomorrow we can be ready for the round of 16."

Before leaving for Jakarta, Son apologised to his Spurs team-mates for his absence for up to three weeks on international duty.

"Of course I'm still very sorry," Son added.

South Korea were all but certain to reach the round of 16 prior to kick-off, as only an 11-goal loss to Kyrgyzstan would have prevented their passage.

Son, making his first start of the competition, volleyed home from a tight angle in the 63rd minute as South Korea laboured to victory, after their shock 2-1 defeat to minnows Malaysia.

- 'I will be ready' -

A few hundred flag-waving Koreans in the stands roared with approval as Son's name was announced in the starting line-up.

Their chants of "Victory Korea" resonated around the sparsely attended SI Jalak Harupat Stadium, high among the mountains of western Java, 70 miles (113 kilometres) from host city Jakarta.

The defending champions dominated but couldn't break through in a lacklustre first half, with Son firing a free kick on the edge of the box straight into the wall.

But Son sparked his team into life with his goal just after the hour-mark to ensure a tough clash with fellow World Cup contestants Iran.

"It was very important, we worked very hard," Son told AFP. "It was a very difficult game against such a team because they were just defending, counter-attack."

Son had skipped the opening 6-0 romp over Bahrain after arriving late in Indonesia, due to his appearance in Spurs' Premier League opener at Newcastle, and was a late substitute against Malaysia.

He praised his Tottenham Hotspur team-mate Lucas Moura for his first Premier League goal in the win against Fulham, despite the Brazilian taking his place in the Spurs team during his absence.

"I was very happy when he scored his first goal for Tottenham in Premier League. You know, it doesn't matter who plays -- I will be ready when I get back to Tottenham as well.

"(Having) conversations with Lucas Moura, Eric Lamela, Harry, we have a lot of good players. I think this make our team stronger and stronger."