Son Heung-min to Eriksen: ‘Stay strong. I love you.’
SEOUL-- Son Heung-min had just given South Korea a lead over Lebanon in a World Cup qualifying match on Sunday, and after converting his second-half penalty, the South Korean captain kept his former Tottenham Hotspur teammate Christian Eriksen in his mind.
Playing for Denmark, Eriksen collapsed during a Euro 2020 match against Finland on Saturday. He required urgent CPR on the field at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen but is said to be in stable condition at hospital.
Following his goal, Son went straight to a TV camera set up behind the net while holding up his fingers to make it "23," the number Eriksen wore while playing for Tottenham alongside Son.
Into the camera, Son said, "Stay strong. I love you."
The harrowing incident sent shockwaves throughout the football world. Given the time difference with Denmark, Son was asleep when the match took place, and he said he only found out about it after waking up Sunday morning.
"It weighed on my mind pretty heavily," Son said in his postmatch press conference at Goyang Stadium in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province. "To see it happen to a former teammate of mine, I was really concerned. I was really close with him (at Tottenham) and he was on my mind throughout today's match."
It's a credit to Son that he didn't let his concern for Eriksen affect his performance on the pitch. With South Korea trailing 1-0 in their final Group H match in the second round of the Asian World Cup qualifying campaign, Son set up a Lebanon own goal with a corner kick in the 50th minute. That 65th-minute penalty helped lock down a 2-1 win, as South Korea finished the second round with five wins and one draw. They scored 22 times and conceded just one goal.
"We gave up the first goal because of our own miscue, but the fact that we battled back to win it is encouraging," Son said. "We didn't make it easy on ourselves, but we got the job done in the end."
Son said things will only get tougher in the next round, when the level of competition will surely rise.
"Objectively speaking, we have to improve in all aspects of the game," Son said. "The next round won't be as easy as the second round. We have to be better prepared mentally. This will be my third time through the third round and I know how grueling the journey can be."
Source: Yonhap News Agency