KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - Winger Son Heung-min hailed South Korea’s 2-0 victory over Germany on Wednesday as “a dream” as Joachim Loew’s defending champions were eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.
It was, though, a bittersweet success for the Koreans, who exited the tournament despite recording their first success over the Germans at a World Cup as Sweden and Mexico advanced.
“We beat the world champions and normally it’s a dream and we can be proud of the team,” said the 25-year-old forward.
“Of course it’s disappointing because we lost in the group but I think I can be proud after this win and we can be proud of this win.
“We beat the world champions from the last World Cup and now I’m looking forward to the next World Cup.”
The Koreans needed to record a victory over the Germans and see Mexico defeat Sweden to realise their slim hopes of advancing to the knockout phase.
Kim Young-gwon gave the Koreans the lead in stoppage time with a close-range strike that was referred to the video assistant referee (VAR) before being confirmed.
Son doubled his side’s advantage a few minutes later when Ju Se-jong robbed Germany’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer of possession near the halfway line before launching the ball forward for his team mate to score into an empty net.
With Sweden beating Mexico 3-0 in the other group game, the Koreans fell just short of reaching the last 16 for the first time since 2010.
“I’m a bit disappointed because we have a lot of good players and we couldn’t show them in the next round, but we’re looking forward to the next games,” added Son, who had been reduced to tears after the loss to Mexico in their second match.
“This win is very big for the fans and for us, the players. We’ve done very well and we’re happy and we deserved to win. During the game we were just concentrating on the game. We did very well.
“We didn’t think about the other game, we were just focused on our game.”
Son stressed he would always play for the South Korean national team whenever he was called up, including at next January’s Asian Cup finals in the United Arab Emirates.
“I will be there, if my country calls me I will be there and everywhere,” he said. “I’m a very lucky guy to play for my country and I’m very happy and lucky to have this country.”
Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Neil Robinson