He’s back in Korea, but not much has changed. Jürgen Klinsmann, the head coach of the South Korean national soccer team, has expressed confidence that the team will do well at the Asian Cup, but has also revealed that he will be traveling abroad again.
Klinsmann, along with the rest of the Korean national team, returned from England on Thursday through Incheon International Airport Terminal 2. Klinsmann returned from England after playing a two-game series against Wales and Saudi Arabia during the September A-match period.
The Klinsmanns played their first A match of the month against Wales in Cardiff City, England, on Sept. 8 and drew 0-0. On the 13th, the team traveled to St. James’ Park in Newcastle in the northeast of England to face Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, where striker Cho Kyu-sung saved a late goal for a 1-0 victory and Klinsmann’s first win after three draws and two losses.
Upon his return to South Korea, Klinsmann faced the media for a Q&A session, where he first had to explain why he decided to come to Korea instead of staying in Europe.
Initially, Klinsmann wanted to come to Korea after the A-Match. According to the Korea Football Association (KFA), Klinsmann decided to watch Bayern Munich’s match against Bayer Leverkusen in the fourth round of the 2023/24 German Bundesliga at 3:45 a.m. on April 16. Klinsmann made it known that he would be observing Kim Min-jae that day.
After watching the game in Munich, Klinsmann would visit European clubs, meet with officials, and analyze the coaching staff in Europe before returning to Korea for the A-League in October. However, Korean soccer fans reacted strongly to the news.
The reason given was that it was a European tune-up, but Korean fans were not convinced. Kim Min-jae had established himself in Munich as one of the best defenders in the world, and they were baffled by the idea that the national team’s first-choice defender, who had been used as a starter just a few days earlier in the two A-match series, would be monitored again.
In fact, the fans’ outburst was the culmination of anger that had been building up. Klinsmann, who has been in charge of the Taegeuk Warriors since February, has since spent more time abroad, including the United States, than in South Korea, sparking a “telecommuting” controversy. “It is estimated that Klinsmann has spent only 67 days in South Korea in the past six months since taking charge of the national team,” the BBC noted.
While Chaduri was in charge of observing the K League, Klinsmann worked with the national team in Europe and the United States. During his time in the U.S., he appeared as a panelist on soccer programs for global sports outlet ESPN and Spanish publication AS, analyzing and evaluating Premier League teams, including Tottenham, and assessing trends in Harry Kane and Lionel Messi. He even predicted a win or loss in some matches, which is an unusual move for a coach of the South Korean national team that reached the round of 16 at the World Cup.
He also attended the UEFA Champions League draw for the 2023/24 season in Monaco, France, on the 1st of September ahead of the A match, and before that, he visited his former club AS Monaco in the French Ligue 1 for an interview, which is hard to believe for a national team manager.
Eventually, the federation informed Klinsmann of the fans’ reaction. Citing the example of previous Korean national team managers returning home together at the end of their overseas A-match schedule, Klinsmann abandoned his plans to stay in Europe and stepped foot on Korean soil for the first time in 45 days since early August.
Speaking about his decision to return to Korea, Klinsmann said: “I heard that a lot of people were waiting for me. I heard a lot from the federation, and when I heard that usually when the players come home from an international trip, the coach comes home with them, I thought twice about it.” “I was scheduled to watch Bayern Munich play Leverkusen this week, and I thought it would be a good idea to travel with the team instead of having to change my schedule so much,” he explained.
“I’m also looking forward to seeing some of you this weekend at a K League game. When I was working in Germany or the U.S., when I went abroad, I was rarely welcomed by so many people, so it’s a new experience,” he said, adding, “It’s a new experience to be welcomed by so many people after a friendly match, so we’re changing the schedule.”
For now, Klinsmann will stay in Korea to observe the players in the K League, which is the most important thing for Korean fans. But the most important thing is continuity, and the main concern for fans is how long Klinsmann will be in Korea to fulfill his duties.
When asked about his upcoming schedule, Klinsmann replied, “I have a schedule of traveling back and forth. There are games to watch overseas,” he said, adding that he plans to travel overseas again. However, he emphasized that this is all in preparation for the real competition, which starts in November.
South Korea will play two friendlies on October 13 and 17. The first will be against Tunisia, a North African powerhouse that beat France in the group stage of the World Cup in Qatar, and the second will be against Vietnam, a team Park Hang-seo coached until January. Both matches will take place in South Korea, with the Tunisians playing at the Seoul World Cup Stadium and the Vietnamese at the Suwon World Cup Stadium.
After the A matches in October, it’s time to stop playing friendlies and get down to business. In November, the team will begin the second round of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup Asia, which will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
On November 16, the team will host the first match of Group C of the second round at home, with the opponent yet to be determined. They will face the winner of Guam-Singapore on Oct. 12 and 17 in a home-and-home format. Singapore is ranked 158th in the FIFA rankings, while Guam is 204th, giving Singapore the objective advantage. The team will then travel to China on Nov. 21 for their second Group C match.
After the World Cup Asia qualifiers, the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup Qatar will be the biggest test for Klinsmann in January 2024. South Korea are drawn in Group E alongside Jordan, Bahrain and Malaysia, and their goal is to reach the top of the Asian Cup for the first time in 64 years.
With the crucial event fast approaching, Klinsmann has vowed to put his controversial behavior and performance controversies behind him by performing well. In the interview, Klinsmann emphasized the Asian Cup as a “benchmark” and said the goal is to perform well at the Asian Cup.
“It’s not long until the Asian Cup, but our ‘benchmark’ is the Asian Cup,” Klinsmann said. “We are confident that we will do well at the Asian Cup, and we have high expectations, but until then, it will be about how we prepare and analyze the key players against us. We are going through a positive growth process,” he said.
“It’s especially important because we’ve been practicing since November. We may not be satisfied with our performance in the A matches so far, but we will make sure that we have the best players for the Asian Cup and prepare well to perform well with the best squad.”
Klinsmann cited his wealth of tournament experience as a reason for his confidence in the Asian Cup. As a legendary German striker, Klinsmann won the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and as a coach, he led Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the 2013 Gold Cup with the United States.
“I have a lot of experience with tournaments, both as a player and as a coach, including the World Cup, and I’ve always enjoyed them,” Klinsmann said, “so I know how to prepare a team for a tournament and how to build a team, so I’m confident that we’ll be in good shape and have a good team.”
“The most important thing is for the players to be healthy and get to the Asian Cup. Not only Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur) and Kim Min-jae, but also Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton Wanderers) had a hamstring injury and wasn’t 100%, and Lee Kang-in (PSG) is out right now,” he said. “If we can get these players healthy and ready to go to Qatar with the best team, I think we can do well.”
At the same time, he pointed out that in order to perform well at the tournament, the team must avoid negative public opinion and reactions, including from fans. Otherwise, he warned, the team could end up like the German national team at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which was considered a favorite but was eliminated in the group stage.
“After a big tournament, when you’re preparing for the next one, I think you need to have a lot of positive public opinion and strength, and only then can you succeed,” he said. “No matter how strong we are internally, no matter how many positive messages we send out, if external factors or people keep creating negative public opinion, the team is bound to falter.”
“The reason I say this is because I think the German national team at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is a great example. Before they went to the World Cup, everything was negative, and they ended up getting knocked out in the group stage and going home.”
Based on this, Klinsmann says, “The players need to be fed with positive public opinion, atmosphere, and energy. Especially the national team, they are the people’s team, they represent the country, so it’s very helpful to create a positive atmosphere together.” “I think that when they don’t perform or don’t get the results that they want, they should be criticized, blamed, and criticized,” he said, asking that people refrain from making negative comments until the results are in.
Ultimately, Klinsmann is asking us to wait for the results of the World Cup qualifiers and the Asian Cup. He’s saying that he’ll use the results to justify what he’s done so far, but after watching six A matches under Klinsmann so far, fans aren’t convinced.
There are question marks over whether Klinsmann’s goal of winning the Asian Cup is even possible, especially as South Korea’s biggest rival, Japan, is on a four-game winning streak and is considered a strong favorite, having scored 18 goals in their last four A-Match matches. Japan even surprised fans with a 4-1 victory over the ‘Tank Corps’ in Germany on the 10th.
In addition, many fans do not like Klinsmann’s argument because it is based on the idea that ‘as long as the result is good, everything is fine’ and it seems that he is trying to justify his incomprehensible actions with a trophy. If he gets results, it means that he will continue to ‘work from home’ overseas and leave the domestic work, including observing K League players, to the coaches. 굿모닝토토
If it doesn’t work out, it’s unclear whether Klinsmann will reflect on his actions and show a different face. The “work-from-home” controversy has been an ongoing issue since Klinsmann’s last stint with the German national team, so it’s doubtful that a failure to win the Asian Cup will change his mind.
In the end, Klinsmann will need to back up his results to silence the negative publicity. With his first win in six matches, it will be interesting to see if Klinsmann can keep the fans happy for the rest of the season, at least on the pitch.