ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (Reuters) - South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong has described his side’s forward Son Heung-min as the best Asian player around and hopes he will finally be unleashed in Saturday’s crucial World Cup game against Mexico after being stifled in the 1-0 defeat to Sweden.
Tottenham Hotspur forward Son, who hit 18 goals last season for his club, has found it hard to replicate that form for his country. But he must turn it on against Mexico if his side are to have a realistic chance of advancing from Group F.
“I think he’s the best of all the Asian players but if you look at the game against Sweden we faced a lot of difficulties, we had to play defensively and he had to sacrifice himself a lot and couldn’t play to the best of his abilities,” Shin told a news conference ahead of the game at Rostov Arena.
“Tomorrow hopefully he’ll have more space and will be able to showcase his real ability.”
Although they were only beaten in their opener by a penalty awarded after a lengthy video review, the Asian side got off lightly and spent most of the game trying to repel attacks from the Swedes.
Midfielder Lee Jae-sung hopes things will be different against Mexico, who pulled off the biggest shock in the tournament so far by beating holders Germany 1-0, and that Son will be able to play to his strengths.
“It’s an honor to play alongside him, and we’ll do everything we can to play more aggressively and help him shine in attack so he can help the team.”
Coach Shin praised Mexico for stunning Germany although he was more concerned about the stifling heat in Rostov, which Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez described as “unbearable” after his side’s 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in the southern Russian city.
“The deciding factor will be the weather, it will have a big influence on the game and it will favor Mexico more than us as they are used to it,” he said.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Hugh Lawson