JAKARTA (Aug 20): Son Heung-min scored the only goal with a sumptuous volley as South Korea beat Kyrgyzstan 1-0 on Monday to reach the last 16 of the Asian Games soccer tournament and keep alive his hopes of avoiding national service.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward, one of the over-age players in the nominally under-23 competition, needs South Korea to win the gold medal in Indonesia if he is to be exempt from two years service in his country's military.
The reigning champions flirted with an early exit from the tournament when, having hammered Bahrain 6-0 in their Group E opener without Son, they were stunned 2-1 by Malaysia in Soreang last Friday.
Even with Son restored to the line-up on Monday, after starting the Malaysia match on the bench, the four-times champions laboured in the first half of a match from which they needed a point to progress.
Son proved the difference in the second half, however, catching Hwang In-beom's 63rd minute corner on the edge of the six-yard box and angling the ball past the Kyrgyzstan keeper and into the net with a perfect strike.
The victory was enough to send the Koreans through to a last 16 meeting with fellow Asian heavyweights and Group A winners Iran on Thursday.
All able bodied South Korean men must complete 21 months service in the military as a deterrent against the North, but exemptions are offered to athletes who win gold at the Asian Games or a medal of any colour at the Olympics.