Ghana coach Otto Addo is looking forward to renewing a long-standing relationship with South Korea’s Son Heung-min when the teams clash at the 2022 Fifa World Cup on Monday.
Ghana, who lost their opening game to Portugal, are seeking their first points in Group H against the Koreans, who kicked off with a 0-0 draw against Uruguay, and are well aware of the threat Son will pose at Al Rayyan’s Education City Stadium.
The German-born Ghanaian coach was in charge of the Under-19s at Hamburg SV when Son arrived at the club aged 16 in 2009 and the teenager made a quick impression.
“Son is a very good player, operates between the lines and has a very good shot. I had the pleasure to have him [when I was] under-19 coach at Hamburg.
“Very good character, he’s hard-working, I really like his character, he is very, very disciplined, he became so good because he worked so hard for it.
“This is what I hope for him, and expected. You can’t predict everything, especially in youth players but I saw something in him, so I proposed him to the first team squad,” Addo said in a press conference on Sunday.
Son signed a professional contract at 18 and soon after became Hamburg’s youngest Bundesliga scorer, moving on to Bayer Leverkusen in 2013 in a transfer deal reportedly worth 10 million euros.
The Korean attacker has since played more than 200 Premier League matches for Tottenham Hotspur and emerged as his country’s talisman, competing in his third World Cup.
“For sure, he did well there and has had a great career. I always wish him all the best, except for tomorrow.
“I am happy for him that he’s healthy again, or that he can play at least. We will stop him together as a team. This is what we tried to do against Portugal. It’s always about closing gaps, closing spaces and we do that together as a team,” added Adoo, who has been doubling up the job of coaching Ghana with coaching youth players at Borussia Dortmund.
Son recently returned from surgery to stabilise a fracture around his eye and played in a black protective mask on Thursday, spearheading the South Korean attack which did not have much impact as they had six attempts at goal but none on target.
“We know his strength and we’re going to listen to the coach who has a plan to stop him,” said Ghana defender Daniel Amartey, who also plays in the topflight in England.
Addo reasserted his claim Ghana had been unlucky to lose to Portugal but also apologised for his post-match criticism of the refereeing. He said he had not faced any sanction from Fifa for the outburst.
“Maybe in the public’s eye we lost but for us, we learnt,” Addo added of the 3-2 defeat by the Portuguese.
“With a little bit of luck, we might well have got a draw. I am happy to have a team which is willing to learn and work hard every day to get better,” he added.
“We have a lot of respect for South Korea, but we know we can compete with them.”