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World Cup 2022: Heung-Min Son, the masked and ghostly hero of South Korea

The masked avenger? The story had everything to be beautiful. Black mask on his face, he landed with, on his shoulders, not a cape, but all the hopes of South Korea to lead his country for the first time in the round of 16 since 2010. Seven times scorer in the playoffs, Warriors star striker Taeguk has already made a big contribution to qualifying for Qatar, but at 30, and for his third World Cup, Heung-Min Son was aiming for more than just a presence in the group stage.

A World Cup that he almost missed after a shock with Chancel Mbemba during Marseille-Tottenham (1-2) counting for the last day of the Champions League, November 1. Operated four days later for a quadruple fracture in his left eye, Heung-Min Son was uncertain and made an entire country fear the worst before finally flying to Qatar.

“Playing for your country at the World Cup is the dream of so many children, just as it has been mine. I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I can’t wait to represent our beautiful country, ”said the South Korean on his Instagram account on November 9.

A message liked by nearly 1.8 million fans, the vast majority from South Korea. Heung-Min Son is a true idol in the country, in the footsteps of Cha Bum-geun, considered the best Asian player of the 20th century and Park Ji-Sung, legend of the 2000s. The former Manchester United player does not did not hesitate to invite him to follow in his footsteps in the Mancunian club last season in the English media: “He is a better player than Rashford, I think he deserves to continue my legacy at Manchester United. Tottenham is not a trophy club. »

Invitation declined for Heung-Min Son who continues to delight Spurs. With Antonio Conte’s team, he became the first Asian player to win the Golden Boot (top scorer award), with his 23 goals tied with Mohammed Salah. A trophy that he had come to present to Seoul, where he was greeted with fanfare by hordes of supporters.

“Wearing a mask is not an inconvenience for him”

However, this end of 2022 is going much less well than expected. Less prominent with his club (5 goals and 2 assists in 19 games), South Korea’s number 7 is also going through this 2022 World Cup as a ghost. Uruguay (0-0 draw), then against Ghana (2-3 defeat), the star striker has not yet been decisive, neither in front of goal nor in the pass. Worse, with its leader broken down, South Korea, with one point in two games, is on the verge of elimination. The Taeguk warriors must win against Portugal, and hope that Uruguay dominates Ghana to get out of it.

“I should have played better individually and also led the team better. It hurts me so much that I couldn’t make it. I can’t ask for more of my teammates. If they keep doing what they are already doing, I will be a truly grateful captain,” Heung-Min Son apologized after the cruel loss to Ghana. Performances at half mast when he had already scored three times in the World Cup (once in 2014 against Algeria, twice in 2018 against Germany and Mexico).

“I don’t really know what to say. We all did our best and I’m sorry that we could only achieve a result like this. I’m really sorry for all our fans who supported us,” repeated Heung-Min Son after the second Group H match. Should we then reduce his lack of performance to his mask? “He got used to it well during training. He should be comfortable on the pitch. Wearing a mask is not an inconvenience, it is natural for him, ”said his coach Paulo Bento at a press conference.

Whatever the reasons, the number 7 of Korea must now believe in a miracle to take his team to the round of 16. “It’s not a good situation for the team, but we will try to execute what the coach wants us to execute, and we will prepare as best we can,” Son explained after the loss to Ghana. Answer this Friday, December 2 with a decisive match against Portugal.

In the stands, we should again see the same black masks bloom on the side of the South Koreans. Fans still believe in their masked avenger. And beware, in cartoons, it often ends well…

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