After making his first appearance of the Premier League season on Saturday, Tottenham forward Son Heung-min landed in Indonesia on Monday to play for South Korea at the Asian Games.
The 25-team tournament is not officially recognized by FIFA, but Tottenham allowed the 26-year-old Son to leave England after the 2-1 win at Newcastle.
Son will be one of three overage players in the under-23 team. If South Korea wins the gold medal, Son will be exempt from 21 months of military service, an obligation he is otherwise expected to start within the next two years.
“Of course our target is gold but it is a long way to get to the final,” Son said on his arrival at Bandung International Airport. “How we approach the game mentally is important. I have thought about the Asian Games a lot.”
Son missed the 2014 Asian Games because he was not released by former club Bayer Leverkusen.
South Korea, which will have four members of its World Cup team on the roster, is favored to win the title in Indonesia. In Russia, the South Koreans were knocked out in the group stage but defeated Germany 2-0, eliminating the defending champions in the process.
“We beat Germany at the World Cup when nobody expected it,” said Son, who scored twice in Russia. “Like that, we could lose to other Asian teams here. We have to take each game as it comes, however, and if we don’t give everything in every game then it will be tough.”
Son is not expected to play in his team’s opening group match against Bahrain on Wednesday but should be ready to face Malaysia on Friday. The final group match against Kyrgyzstan is on Monday.
The other 19 members of the team arrived on Saturday. One of the standouts at the World Cup was goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo, another overage player. Cho has already applied to start his military service in December but could be exempt with a gold medal.
“The World Cup is in the past now and I want to focus on the Asian Games,” Cho said. “We want to show what we are made of and Son told me he just wants to score lots of goals.”