TOTTENHAM forward Son Heung-min feels ashamed by the “unacceptable” 2-1 defeat to Malaysia, but believes his South Korean team will still qualify for the last-16 stage from Group E in the Asian Games.
Heung-min revealed that his young team took things lightly against their Southeast Asian rivals on Friday.
After being granted permission by Tottenham to pursue a gold medal that would earn him an exemption from military service, the 26-year-old finally made his appearance as a 57th-minute substitute in Korea’s second group game.
By then, the defending champions were down 2-0 after a brace by Safawi Rasid, and all the warnings Heung-min had given his young teammates about the potential threats of every opponent appeared to have gone unheeded.
“I feel ashamed about this shocking loss. The players took it easy. After Malaysia scored two goals, the players were perplexed,” said Heung-min on Friday.
He had some good touches in the Malaysian half but after Hwang Ui-jo scored for Korea in the 87th minute, he directed his free kick wide in stoppage time.
“I should have dictated the match better. Before the tournament, I told the players that we could face problems if we lowered our guard.
“This result is unexpected, but I am relieved that it has happened during the group stage. I hope our players have learnt from this,” Heung-min added.
South Korea dominated possession, but could not break into Malaysia’s efficient and tight defence.
Heung-min is one of three overage players in Korea’s Under-23 Asian Games squad. He is one of four members of their World Cup team, along with goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo, Hwang Hee-chan and Lee Seung-woo.
Hee-chan started against Malaysia.
South Korea coach Kim Hak-bum admitted that he made a tactical error by not starting with his best players for the match.
“I apologise to all Koreans for my blunder and the defeat. It is my mistake.
“But I believe we will still go through. We, however, will have a difficult pathway in the knockout stages as we have lost a group match,” he said.
On Heung-min’s limited playing time, Hak-bum said he has only been with the squad for a few days.
Malaysia lead the group with two wins, three points clear of second-placed Korea.
The top two teams from each group and the four best-performing third-placed teams will advance to the last-16 stage.