Eminently likeable, prodigiously skilled and clutch in the big moments, Son Heung-min is football’s modern-day movie star.
Unfortunately for the Socceroos, South Korea’s smiling assassin, and Ange Postecoglou’s captain at Tottenham, stands between them and an Asian Cup semi-final.
“I rang Ange and asked Ange if he can take him back,” Socceroos coach Graham Arnold joked.
South Korea’s captain, who scored in the 2015 Asian Cup final loss to Australia, is smart, explosive, elusive and a brilliant finisher.
He hasn’t hit his straps this tournament yet either, which makes the quarter-final at the Al Janoub Stadium in Doha on Friday evening (Saturday 2.30am AEDT) all the more ominous.
“You want to verse the best players in the world and he’s probably up there, isn’t he?” right-back Nathaniel Atkinson said.
“He scores goals for fun in the Premier League.
“So it’ll be fun to see how he gets in those positions but also for us how we can stop that.”
Skipper Mat Ryan insists the Socceroos will respect Son enough – but not too much.
After all, this is a team that has faced Lionel Messi twice in the past two years and also taken on the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane.
“He’s just a human at the end of the day,” Ryan told AAP.
Veteran defender Aziz Behich has gone toe-to-toe with Son before.
“You have to be careful, it’s obviously in the back of your mind as a player when you’re on the pitch that these type of world-class players can change a game in a moment,” he said.
“But it’s all about us and what we can do as a team.”
There is more to South Korea than Son, of course.
Paris Saint-Germain star Lee Kang-in, Wolves forward Hwang Hee-chan and big striker Cho Gue-sung are all capable of giving Australia’s defence nightmares.
“That’s where we have to be on song,” Arnold said.
“Our defensive structure, our defensive shape has been been very good, we’ve conceded one goal so far this tournament.
“And I know I said clean sheets win you tournaments but these type of opponents, if you’re a bit sloppy and you give them one bit of space, well then you can get punished.”
The Socceroos, who have a full two days’ extra rest on Juergen Klinsmann’s charges, insist they won’t be overawed by the occasion as they attempt to make amends for 2019’s quarter-final exit.
“I wouldn’t say there’s an intimidation factor, these are the games that you want to play in,” Atkinson said.
“We back ourselves against the best teams in the world, not just in Asia, but around the world.
“You’ve got to win every game from now to win the thing and that’s what we came here to do anyway.”
Hard-pressing striker Mitch Duke insists he can start and go the distance after successfully returning from a hamstring strain against Indonesia.
“I’m feeling ready to play a full 90 minutes, 120 minutes – whatever is required,” he said.
Duke famously scored at Al Janoub Stadium in Australia’s World Cup win over Tunisia and welcomed a return to the venue where he has “great memories”.
“I’m looking forward to making more memories like that in the next match and you look forward to the big games as a professional footballer as well,” he said.
“That’s where it comes down to big moments and big players to step up in those moments and I’m looking forward to that.”
Atkinson’s competition at right-back, Gethin Jones (groin) appears less likely to feature.