Son Heung-min described South Korea’s agonising wait for confirmation of their place in World Cup knockout rounds “the longest six minutes of my life” after their 2-1 win over Portugal on Friday saw them advance to the last 16.
The Korean captain set up Hwang Hee-chan to score a 91st minute winner against Fernando Santos’ side and leave the Taeguk Warriors hoping Uruguay would be unable to add to their two-goal lead over Ghana in the other Group H match.
Another goal would have taken Uruguay into the last 16 at Korea’s expense on goal-difference and the squad huddled together on the Education City Stadium pitch watching on digital devices as the South Americans ultimately fell short.
“It was the longest six minutes of my life, but in the circle we were really positive,” said Son, who will be playing in the World Cup knockout rounds for the first time in his career.
“I said: if Uruguay score one more goal, I’m very proud of this team and very happy that you gave it everything and we will see what’s going to happen.
“We were just waiting, but it was a long wait.”
Korea’s win over the Portuguese carried echoes of their 2-0 victory over Germany in Russia four years ago, which eliminated the then-defending champions.
Son scored deep into injury time in that game in Kazan only for the win to be academic, with Korea failing to progress as Mexico’s 3-0 loss against Sweden took both nations through at the expense of the Shin Tae-yong coached side.
“This time was different,” said Son. “We were waiting for another result but I didn’t even think about four years ago because I was so happy and I was so proud at this moment.”
The Koreans will next take on tournament favourites Brazil on Monday with Son praising the unity within Paulo Bento’s squad.
“We spend more time than with friends and family,” he said. “In the camp the guys are already here more than a month.
“We’re really, really close. I’m really grateful to those who didn’t play, they could be sad but they didn’t show their disappointment.
“They gave everything on the bench and support us and that makes a huge difference, to be one team than going in different ways.
“I’m very happy, very grateful to lead this team and have this team. This makes a huge difference.”