|Korea's Son Heung-min applauds fans after the match as Korea are eliminated from the World Cup, Dec. 5. Reuters-Yonhap|
Korean captain Son Heung-min defended his team's effort following a devastating loss to Brazil in the round of 16 in Qatar Monday night, saying their best just wasn't good enough against the top-ranked opponent.
Korea fell to Brazil 4-1 to bow out of the FIFA World Cup at Stadium 974 in Doha. The Selecao scored all four of their goals in the first half, while substitute Paik Seung-ho scored the only Korean goal in the second half.
"We did our best but it was an extremely difficult match," Son said in a televised interview. "But all the players here have battled proudly to get this far. There's no doubt in my mind about everyone's dedication and sacrifice."
"I can only apologize to our fans for not living up to their expectations," Son continued. "But I hope they all understand our situation. Everyone on the team did the best they could to prepare for this match."
|Korea's Son Heung-min walks with the ball during the World Cup round of 16 match between Brazil and Korea, at Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Dec. 5. AP-Yonhap|
Son played the entire tournament wearing a protective mask, after undergoing surgery to repair multiple fractures around his left eye. He sustained the injury in a collision with an opposing player on Nov. 1 and had surgery three days later. Son then played his first World Cup match in Qatar on Nov. 24.
Son failed to score in Qatar yet joins retired star Park Ji-sung as the only South Koreans to score in three consecutive World Cups. He was an inspirational leader for the Taegeuk Warriors all the way through, even attempting headers at the risk of further injuries to his face.
"I am okay. This is nothing compared to what my players have been going through," added Son, who played in the knockouts for the first time.
As for younger players who made their World Cup debuts in Qatar, Son said, "They have to be consistent and play with a sense of responsibility. I hope that this is not the end for them and that they can be even better going forward." (Yonhap)