2022 is a year as meaningful to Korean football as 2002, when the World Cup semifinal legend was written at home.
Korea advanced to the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It is the first splendid achievement in 12 years since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It is the second away round of 16 in history. Initially, few foreign media and betting companies predicted that Korea would pass the group stage. This is because Korea, led by coach Paulo Bento, was judged to have inferior objective power compared to Portugal, Uruguay and Ghana in the same group. In addition, Korea’s captain and ace, Son Heung-min, suffered a fracture in the left orbit just before the opening of the World Cup, and it was evaluated that Korea’s competitiveness was further reduced.
In the UEFA Champions League match against Marseille (France) on the 2nd of last month, Son Heung-min collided strongly with an opponent and was replaced. After that, he was put on the operating table. The domestic medical community diagnosed Son Heung-min as having to take a break for at least a month, saying that his World Cup challenge was unreasonable. Son Heung-min recovered faster than expected. He joined Bentuho wearing a protective face mask. He played full-time in all four matches South Korea played, including the group stage and the round of 16. In the 3rd match of the group stage against Portugal, after an explosive dribble breakthrough, he assisted Hwang Hee-chan’s winning goal with a sharp pass, leading to a dramatic 2-1 come-from-behind victory.
Although he lost 1-4 in the round of 16 against the world’s strongest Brazil, he left a strong impression on the world football world with his stable football that did not back down against strong teams. South America’s strong Uruguay (0-0 draw) and Portugal, who were candidates for the championship, played on an equal footing, leading the Asian sensation along with Japan. JTBC commentator Kim Hyung-il said, “The fact that we advanced to the round of 16 after defeating Portugal is a scene that confirms the competitiveness of Korean football on the international stage.”
This year, there was another incident comparable to the World Cup round of 16. It is Son Heung-min’s English Premier League (EPL) top scorer. Tottenham striker Son Heung-min scored 23 goals in the EPL in the 2021-22 season, which ended in May, and tied for the top scorer with Mohamed Salah (Liverpool). The EPL is a league in which top players compete in Europe. Son Heung-min is the first Asian player to win the EPL top scorer. Son Heung-min is the first Asian to become the top scorer even after expanding the scope to the five major leagues including England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France. Son Heung-min scored 8 goals in the aftermath of calf and hamstring (muscles behind the thighs) injuries in the first half of the season, but set a record in the second half with a “storm goal”.
Son Heung-min also broke the record for the most goals (17 goals) in one season in the regular league for the 2020-21 season. He surpassed former national team coach Cha Bum-geun, who scored 17 goals for Germany’s Leverkusen in the 1985-86 season, and won the title of “Korean player’s top scorer in a single season in the European league.” Commissioner Kim said, “Son Heung-min has set another record that will remain forever in Korean soccer history. It is not easy for a top European goal scorer to win the top scorer. It is more than expected for an Asian player to break through a European defender with overwhelming physicality and speed and score. It’s a difficult job,” he said.
He said, “It’s difficult to be on an unfamiliar stage. I also took a lot of swearing while commenting. To do well, I took speech lessons, memorized the whole material, and even put a knife on my tongue (surgery on the tongue). “When Son Heung-min left the German Bundesliga and came to the EPL for the first time How much effort must they have endured? Overcoming prejudice and competition to reach the top is a human victory,” he praised. He also added, “What is regrettable is what if Son Heung-min participated in the World Cup without injury while in peak condition. If so, Korea would have been able to aim for higher places. 안전놀이터
” The national team is expected to appoint a new coach to succeed Bento. The next coach will lead the Asian Cup held in Qatar next year. The under-23 (U-23) national team led by coach Hwang Seon-hong will challenge the gold medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games. Commissioner Kim said, “I hope next year will be a year that reaps abundant results like this year. All of this is impossible without the encouragement and support of the fans. If everyone plays together like now, there is nothing we can’t achieve.”