The Tottenham star could have scored a hat-trick against the Blue Tigers but for the heroism of a certain Subrata Paul…
January 18, 2011 could be a special date for Tottenham Hotspur star striker Son Heung-min. Because it was on that day, exactly 10 years ago, that he scored his first international goal for his country.
The opportunity and the adversaries? None other than India in an AFC Asian Cup group match in Doha.
It might not have been a memorable outing for the Indian national team, but the match also marked the last competitive appearance of one of India’s greatest footballers in Bhaichung Bhutia. The Blue Tigers lost 4-1 to South Korea, Ji Dong-won scoring a brace while Koo Ja-Cheol and Son completed the scoring for the South Koreans. India’s consolation was a penalty from Sunil Chhetri.
Son, considered an absolute icon in South Korea, tore him apart in the Premier League with Tottenham. In fact, he is the first Asian player to score 50 Premier League goals and is also the best Asian to have made the Ballon d’Or lists.
He has 89 caps for South Korea and has scored 26 goals for them. He helped the Taeguk Warriors reach the 2015 Asian Cup final and also excelled in South Korea’s brief campaign at the 2018 World Cup. Son scored in the famous 2-0 victory of South Korea v Germany in the group stage although the team cannot break out of the group.
But it all started for the 28-year-old in 2011. All 18 at the time, Son was playing for Bundesliga Hamburger SV and was doomed for success.
He made his national team debut in a pre-tournament friendly against Syria on December 30, 2010 as the team prepared for the 2011 Asian Cup. He would get his second appearance against India in the last group game and he made his mark.
Photo: Son Heung-Min (11) celebrates with teammate Koo Ja-Cheol after scoring the fourth goal against India at Al-Gharafa Stadium in Doha
It was a game where the Koreans completely dominated the proceedings with 15 shots on target, 15 shots on target and up to eight blocked.
While the focus was on Manchester United star Ji-Sung Park and Ki-Sung Yeung of Swansea City, it was an 18-year-old son who made an instant impact following his arrival in the second half. It was a sublime left-footed finish from a tight angle in the 81st minute that beat Subrata Paul and helped Korea record a landslide 4-1 victory.
His was at his best against the Indians as he not only scored a goal but also opened the Indian defense on several occasions.
After scoring the goal, he celebrated by making a heart with his hands as a tribute to his brother (Heung-yun Son) whose birthday fell on the same day. It was special for Son because he and his brother had been coached by their father Son Woong-jung, a former professional footballer who aimed to bring his sons to the top with a strict and disciplined diet.
While Heung-yun only reached the fifth level in the German professional football system, Heung-min Son certainly made his brother, father and country proud by reaching the top.