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Captain Son apologises after South Korea’s meek World Cup exit

South Korea's Son Heung-min applauds supporters after his team's elimination. Photo: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP

Son Heung-min apologised after his South Korean side exited the World Cup following a sobering 4-1 defeat to favourites Brazil in the last 16 in Qatar.

The captain and talisman was powerless as Brazil scored four times in the first half on Monday, before Paik Seung-ho netted a 76th-minute consolation for the outclassed Koreans.

South Korea have still never won a World Cup knockout tie outside of their home country.

“I can only apologise to our fans for not living up to their expectations,” said the 30-year-old Tottenham forward, who played in a mask in Qatar following facial surgery last month.

“We did our best but I think we played a very difficult game,” he told TV reporters.

“Still, there is no doubt that all the players battled proudly, devoted themselves and worked hard to get this far.

“The players and staff really did their best to prepare for this match, so I hope you understand.”

South Korea coach Paulo Bento announced in the immediate aftermath of the heavy defeat that he would not be staying on, a decision he said was made in September.

The 53-year-old former Portugal international had been in charge since 2018.

Son, who failed to score at the tournament and showed only fleeting glimpses of his best form, said he was sorry to see the boss go.

“I never once had any doubt about the style of football he pursued,” Son told Korean media in a reference to critics, who said Bento was too cautious at times.

“A lot of people had reservations about it but they all cheered for us when we played well at the World Cup here. We were able to execute things we’d worked on for the last four years.”

“It’s really sad to see him go,” Son added.

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