The Jakarta Post
South Korea's men’s soccer team clinched the gold medal on Saturday after defeating fierce rival Japan 2-1 in extra time, a win that granted the players an exemption from military service.
Playing in front of 10,832 fans at the Pakansari Stadium in Bogor, West Java, the two Asian soccer powerhouses failed to score a single goal during 90 minutes, going into extra time to determine the winner.
Korea's captain Son Heung-min nearly opened the scoring seconds into extra time when he took advantage of an error by Japan's Teruki Hara who lost ball possession in his own defense.
One-on-one with the keeper, Son's left-footed shot went wide.
Two minutes later, Korea scored a much-awaited goal when Lee Seung-woo, who came on from the bench, sent a screamer following a scrimmage inside Japan's penalty area.
Hwang Hee-chan doubled the advantage as he jumped highest to head from a free kick and sent the ball into the far corner of the net.
Five minutes before the final whistle, Ayase Ueda scored a consolation goal for Japan but failed to prevent his team from losing the game.
Son, 26, current Asia's biggest talent in the English Premier League, celebrated the win by making a victory lap carrying South Korea's flag and approached his fans in the stands, who greeted him with sheer jubilation.
The victory means that he can now focus on developing a bright career with Tottenham Hotspur as he will not be required to take part in 21-month military service thanks to the gold medal.
Since joining Spurs in 2015, Son has scored 30 goals.
Son praised his teammates, particularly for the 30-minutes hard-fought battle during extra time, but stopped short of commenting on the military-service exemption.
"I think we did really good [...] I am really proud of my teammates," Son said. (nkn)