These are the words of South Korean soccer ‘captain’ Son Heung-min (Tottenham) as he embarks on his fourth World Cup.
The South Korean national soccer team will take on Singapore at 8 p.m. on Saturday at the Seoul World Cup Stadium in the first match of Group C of the 2026 North and Central American World Cup Asia Second Qualifying Round.
It’s the start of a long and challenging journey that begins nearly two and a half years before the World Cup itself.
For Son, this will be his fourth World Cup. In Brazil 2014, Russia 2018, and Qatar 2022, he overcame many challenges and grew as a player.
At the pre-match press conference at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Friday, Son reiterated that he will approach the challenge with a serious attitude.
“I’m just trying to do the best I can where I am,” said Son Heung-min, “I’m not living in the future or the past, I’m living in the present. I’m only thinking about the two upcoming matches (Singapore on the 16th and China on the 21st),” he said.
“The World Cup journey is a long one. Sometimes you’re on a good road, sometimes you fall off, sometimes you have to go through thorns,” he said. “The experienced players have to protect (the team). I hope we can go all the way to the final qualifier.”
Their first opponents, Singapore (155th), are classified as ‘underdogs’, as evidenced by their FIFA ranking gap of 131 places to South Korea (24th).
However, they also have a formidable professional team in Ryan City, who recently beat Jeonbuk Hyundai in the group stage of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL).
Currently, about half of Singapore’s national team roster is made up of Ryan City players.
This will be Son’s first time facing Singapore in an A-League match, but he has played against them before when his club Tottenham toured Asia last summer.
Spurs won 5-1, but the game was tied 1-1 at halftime. Ryan City scored the first goal, and Tottenham made it 1-1 on a penalty kick by Harry Kane (now of Bayern Munich) just before halftime.
Reflecting on the game, Son said, “You have to be careful. There were definitely threatening players, so I’m very nervous.”
On Singapore’s Korean naturalized player Song Eui-young (Surabaya), he said, “I respect my opponent. I’m Korean, so I hope she doesn’t do well on the court tomorrow,” he said.
“Even when I played against Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton) (last weekend), he wasn’t a ‘little brother’ to me, he was just a threat,” he continued.
With Singapore set to play an extreme defensive game, he pointed out that the experience of a 6-0 thrashing of Vietnam in an exhibition match last month will be a “plus”.
“Obviously, it’s hard for any team to break through when they’re completely defensive,” said Son, adding, “It’s just a matter of whether we can create chances early (like we did against Vietnam) and whether we can convert those chances early.”
With the departure of his best friend, striker Kane, Son Heung-min has been Tottenham’s “gunslinger” this season. As a result, he’s facing more pressure from opposing defenses than ever before.
Against Wolverhampton, he was even stepped on in the groin in the last minute of the game.
“You get stepped on or kicked in the groin when you play. I sometimes get kicked too,” he laughed.
“Other than jet lag, I’m in good shape,” he emphasized.
“We’re doing all the training we promised to do, the delicate play within the freedom,” said Jürgen Klinsmann, who values the autonomy of his players in the offense. “Being able to play like this is a big weapon for us,” he said. 파워볼