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Captain Sonny scores 1st goals in Klinsmann era

By Yonhap

Published : March 25, 2023 - 10:38

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

ULSAN -- Who else but Sonny?

Son Heung-min, captain of the South Korean men's national football team, fittingly scored the first goal under new head coach Jurgen Klinsmann on Friday.

In fact, Son had the first two goals for Klinsmann, though they weren't enough as South Korea settled for a 2-2 draw against Colombia at Munsu Football Stadium in the southeastern city of Ulsan.

Son had been captain under the previous coach, Paulo Bento, for the past four years. Klinsmann, who was appointed at the end of February and made his coaching debut on this cool spring night, decided this week to retain Son as his skipper.

Given Son's stature within the team and his leadership skills, it was an easy decision. And Son wasted little time to respond to Klinsmann's faith in kind, scoring his 36th international goal in his 109th appearance.

And the captain barely had to break a sweat for the goal. Colombian goalkeeper Camilo Vargas casually stepped out of the box after passing the ball to teammate Johan Mojica. Vargas left the net unoccupied, and when Mojica's ill-fated clearing attempt found its way to Son, Vargas had to scramble back to position.

Son dribbled toward the center of the box and curled the ball into the wide-open net with his left foot.

Son doubled down with a free kick goal near the end of the first half, giving South Korea a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead. With his 37th goal, Son climbed to third on the all-time South Korean scoring list.

The brace lost its luster, though, as Colombia erased that deficit with two quick goals early in the second half.

Son has now scored in three consecutive matches against Colombia, having earlier done so in November 2017 and March 2019.

With his second goal Friday, Son now has five free kick goals, the most among all South Korean players.

However, Son said after the match he couldn't care less about his individual accomplishments or level of performance, because the team didn't win.

"I hold myself accountable for not delivering the win tonight," Son said. "I am sure coach Klinsmann wanted to get off to a winning start, and I think this result left a lot to be desired."

Klinsmann said at his postmatch presser he will give Son freedom to rotate in the attacking line behind the striker. And Son said Klinsmann has gone out of his way to make the players feel at ease, which Son said led to some strong performances on the pitch.

"I think the guys played with so much confidence with and without the ball," Son said. "We scored twice and created some great opportunities. We have to keep building on them and keep improving. We will be able to play a more aggressive style of football that way."

Son thanked the sellout crowd of nearly 36,000 at Munsu for their support. This was South Korea's first match since reaching the round of 16 at last year's FIFA World Cup, and, in Son's words, the team's first opportunity to thank the supporters at the stadium.

"I was so grateful to have this opportunity to express our gratitude with action on the field," Son said. "It would have been better if we'd won today. Hopefully, we'll give them a better present in the next match."

Asked to grade the team's showing, Son said he'd give 70 out of 100.

"I know how talented my teammates are, but I also want them to keep trying to get better and not get drunk with their success," Son said. "We clearly saw areas that we need to improve in today's match." (Yonhap)