Football in South Korea: Klinsmann confident despite false start

Jürgen Klinsmann remains confident despite his false start as South Korea’s national soccer coach. “There are a lot of positives from all the games. It’s a team that has an enormous will to learn,” said the former national coach on Thursday in Seoul: “You listen carefully. You are ready for advice. As a coach it is a real pleasure to work with this team.”

After four games, Klinsmann, who succeeded Portugal’s Paulo Bento at the end of February, is still waiting for his first win with the South Korean side. Most recently, his team did not get beyond a 1-1 draw with El Salvador on Tuesday. Ui-Jo Hwang gave the hosts the lead in the 49th minute. Alex Roldan (87th) scored for the Central Americans to equalize. South Korea had previously remained without a win in their home games against Colombia (2-2), Uruguay (1-2) and Peru (0-1).

Klinsmann emphasized on Thursday that he and his team, which also includes former national goalkeeper coach Andreas Köpke, “firmly believed that we should have won all four games. We were clearly the better team. We played impressive football”. However, his players would have to be “more determined and aggressive”, said the 58-year-old.

In addition, many failures would have weakened the team. Among other things, Klinsmann was missing defense chief Min-Jae Kim (SSC Napoli), who was being courted by Bayern Munich and is currently doing his military service. At least Klinsmann was able to bring on his regular captain Heung-Min Son in the second half against El Salvador. The Tottenham Hotspur striker was rested after a groin surgery in the game against Peru.

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The South Korean national team has been a regular participant in the World Cup since 1986. With the exception of the home World Cup in 2002, when the South Koreans surprisingly made it to the semi-finals, they can’t boast of any great successes. In South Africa in 2010 and most recently in Qatar, they were eliminated in the round of 16. All other World Cup appearances ended after the first round. South Korea played their very first World Cup game at the 1954 World Cup and suffered their heaviest defeat to date in a 9-0 loss to Hungary. The 2-0 win over Germany in the third round match in 2018 was South Korea’s highest World Cup victory to date – after that both teams were eliminated.

When he took office, former national coach Jürgen Klinsmann stated that winning the Asian championship in January 2024 in Qatar was his short-term goal. His contract runs until the end of the 2026 World Cup.


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