No military service for Son as South Korea win Asian Games gold
Tottenham forward will receive exemption after his side beat Japan U-23s in extra-time
Son Heung-min celebrates after South Korea secured gold in the Asian Games. Photograph: Darren Whiteside/Reuters
South Korean law requires all able-bodied men to complete almost two years of service in the nation’s army, navy or air force and Son, 26, and his team-mates knew their only chance of avoiding duty under the current conscription regulations was to win gold in West Java, Indonesia.
The quest for glory — and in Son’s case the freedom to fulfil his five-year contract at Spurs — was arduous as Japan’s under-23 side, who had kept four clean sheets on their way to the final, held firm for 90 minutes, even scaring South Korea with solid efforts from Kota Watanabe and Yuto Iwasaki.
But South Korea were the dominant side, with tournament top-scorer Hwang Ui-jo spurning several golden chances as Son regularly tormented Japan down the left.
The dam finally broke a few minutes into extra-time as substitute Lee Seung-woo of Hellas Verona collected a pass from Son and rocketed the ball into the top corner. It was 2-0 when Son won a free-kick before floating it over to Hwang Hee-chan, who headed home.
Perhaps guilty of switching off given the comfortable margin, South Korea conceded to Ayase Ueda at the death.