Fatigue? It's all in the mind, says Son
South Korea's star hopes for improved showing against Qatar
South Korea's Son Heung Min said he was blocking out thoughts of being tired as he slogs it out at the Asian Cup on the back of a frantic spell of football in recent months.
The World Cup, Asian Games and English Premier League have all taken their toll, and talk of fatigue drew a rueful look from Son after South Korea needed extra-time to beat Bahrain 2-1 in their last-16 clash on Tuesday.
"It's about mentality," the Tottenham Hotspur forward said, grimacing and rubbing the back of his head.
"If you think you're tired, you get tired. After the game, I feel tired of course, but still I try to recover as quickly as possible and play again. In three days, I can recover.
"It's the same when I'm playing with Tottenham as well. I have to recover as quick as possible and look forward to play."
South Korea coach Paulo Bento has voiced concerns over the condition of his captain, who is leading South Korea's charge for a first Asian Cup title in 59 years.
Before arriving in the United Arab Emirates, Son, 26, played in 12 matches in a little over a month for Spurs, who have lost both Harry Kane and Dele Alli to injury in recent days.
Injuries have also become an increasing problem for the Taeguk Warriors, whose Cup hopes took a knock when they lost Newcastle United midfielder Ki Sung Yeung to a hamstring injury.
"He's a big loss," Son said of Ki, whose No. 16 shirt was brandished by his teammates after Kim Jin Su's extra-time winner in Dubai.
"He's one of the best players in the squad of course. He's a big loss and someone else will have to be ready to step up and show what he can do."
Bento admitted injury absences had robbed South Korea of some ideas in attack, and they looked flat and vulnerable at times against a Bahrain team who packed the defence.
"In the positions where we can refresh the team a little bit in terms of attack, we have difficulties," Bento said after the laboured win over Bahrain's part-timers.
"But now we need to find solutions because on the 25th, we will play again. It's not an excuse, it's what we have in this moment."
Last year, Son starred - and scored - as South Korea knocked defending champions Germany out of the World Cup, and he also led his country to victory at the Asian Games, a title which earned him an exemption from military service.
After playing 209 minutes in two games since arriving for South Korea's final group fixture, Son will now need to lift himself again for tomorrow's quarter-final against Qatar, who pipped Iraq 1-0 in their last-16 encounter yesterday morning (Singapore time).
But despite being on the receiving end of some rough challenges, including a boot to the head, he said he didn't feel he was being singled out by opposition teams.
"Everyone can be a target," he said. "I don't worry about this. I have to learn from this. We should play better than this game." - AFP