Zombie football & Peter Andre: what next for Tottenham star Son Heung-min after South Korea's Asian Cup exit

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
South Korea crashed out of the Asian Cup at the hands of Jordan on Tuesday.

They've been calling it 'zombie football' - a lumbering, miserable, incessant trudge towards the juicy frontal lobe of a major international honour; a groaning, brainless team that kept on unfathomably clawing its way out of a succession of shallow graves.

But even the undead can die. Usually the trick is to aim for the head, to decapitate with whatever crude instrument you can lay a sweaty palm on, swinging it with a sizeable dose of panicked horror. In the case of South Korea, it turns out the secret is as simple as keeping Son Heung-min quiet.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On Tuesday, the Taeguk Warriors were finally knocked out of the Asian Cup. Quite how they had made it as far as the semi-finals of the continental dust-up is anybody's guess. After a dreary group stage in which they brushed aside Bahrain, drew with an unfancied Malaysia, and had to rely upon a last gasp own goal to secure a sharing of the spoils with Jordan, South Korea stumbled into the knockout rounds like a bedraggled Squid Game contestant.

And yet, they weren't even close to finished. In sequential clashes against regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Australia, Jurgen Klinsmann's side looked buried with seconds left on the clock, only to find hugely improbable equalisers and even more improbable ways of wriggling their way through to another date with destiny. You can lock all your doors, you can barricade your windows, but eventually the South Korean hoard will find you, and they will feast on your shinbones.

Or at least, that was seemingly the case, until yesterday. Like Peter Andre in the jungle, it would appear that South Korea simply cannot resist Jordan. The surprise packages of this year's Asian Cup, The Chivalrous (some nickname that is, by the way, lads) were able to restrain their heavyweight opponents with relative comfort. In the end, the final whistle would blow on a 2-0 Jordanian defeat, and not even Son of the Dead could prevent his nation's 64-year wait for continental supremacy from dragging on a little longer. This is insania.

But now, as the sting subsides and the reality sets in like sunrise over a post-apocalyptic cityscape, questions must be asked. Where do South Korea, and Klinsmann in particular, go from here? The manner in which the Taeguk Warriors have whimperingly fallen on their swords will have done little to endear them to supporters back home, and the wastefulness of such a stacked attacking roster - one that failed to record a single shot on target during their semi-final exit - will not have gone unnoticed.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Klinsmann himself has been quick to quash speculation surrounding his potential resignation, stating that he is 'not planning to do anything' beyond 'analysing this tournament, going back to Korea, and obviously talking with the federation about what was good and what was not so good in the tournament.' Whether his employers are willing to be so forgiving remains to be seen, however.

Certainly, disgruntlement in other quarters is beginning to boil over. There are those who have taken exception to the fact that the German has spent just 67 days in South Korea over the course of his first six months in the job, whereas his predecessors have traditionally moved to Seoul upon accepting the role.

There are others who were displeased with footage of Klinsmann openly smiling after his side fell behind to Malaysia during the group stage, who believe that he is not treating the venture with a requisite devotion.

And then there is the growing, baying mob who are simply astonished by the nullity of their inexplicably lethargic national team. As MBC Television commentator Seo Hyung-wook succinctly put it: 'The team played with no specific tactics. It all depended on individuals and not the team and there was just one win in six matches within 90 minutes.'

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

By and large, when those individuals perform, South Korea still have just about enough to squeeze their way past most teams on the Asian continent. But all it really takes is for Son in particular to be adequately smothered, and suddenly the Taeguk Warriors are transformed from 'undead nightmare' to 'octogenarian zombie who misplaced their dentures during the ensuing kerfuffle'.

As for the Tottenham Hotspur talisman himself, he will be 35 by the time the next Asian Cup rolls over the horizon. If he doesn't win it in 2028, he may never. Regardless, at the present moment in time, the chances of Klinsmann leading South Korea into that tournament feel slim to minimal.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.