Son Heung-min sorry to South Korea fans for 'not living up to expectations' at World Cup

Asian side were eliminated at the last-16 stage following a 4-1 defeat to Brazil on Monday night

Son Heung-min applauds the fans after South Korea's defeat to Brazil in the World Cup last 16. AP
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South Korea captain Son Heung-min has apologised to the national team's fans for “not living up to their expectations” after exiting the World Cup at the last 16 stage on Monday night.

South Korea were soundly beaten 4-1 by Brazil at Stadium 974 in Doha, with all four Brazilian goals coming in the first half. The Asian team were much improved in the second half and Paik Seung-ho scored a 76th-minute consolation but the damage had already been done.

South Korea have still never won a World Cup knockout tie outside of their home country, where they reached the quarter-finals in 2002.

“I can only apologise to our fans for not living up to their expectations,” said 30-year-old Tottenham forward Son, who played in a mask in Qatar following facial surgery last month.

“We did our best but I think we played a very difficult game. Still, there is no doubt that all the players battled proudly, devoted themselves and worked hard to get this far.

“The players and staff really did their best to prepare for this match, so I hope you understand.”

Brazil v South Korea player ratings

South Korea manager Paulo Bento announced in the immediate aftermath of the defeat that he would not be staying on, a decision he said was made in September. The 53-year-old former Portugal international had been in charge since 2018.

Son failed to score at the tournament and showed only fleeting glimpses of his best form, but it was his excellent assist which led to Korea's last-gasp winner against Portugal and ensured their place in the knockouts.

“I never once had any doubt about the style of football he pursued,” Son told Korean media in a reference to critics, who said Bento was too cautious at times.

“A lot of people had reservations about it but they all cheered for us when we played well at the World Cup here. We were able to execute things we'd worked on for the last four years. It's really sad to see him go.”

Updated: December 06, 2022, 11:22 AM