Klinsmann’s men are back in the hunt for their first Asian title in 64 years.
The South Korean national soccer team, led by Jürgen Klinsmann, held team training at the Al Egla Training Center in Doha, Qatar.
South Korea finished second in Group E (1 win, 2 draws) and advanced to the round of 16. They accomplished their first goal, but not in a good way. A 3-1 win over Bahrain in the first round seemed like a promising start. However, they struggled to a 2-2 draw against Jordan in the second round. After being down 1-2, they came back to take a point on an own goal in extra time.
South Korea, ranked 23rd in the FIFA rankings, drew 3-3 against “130th” Malaysia. They conceded three goals in a row in the second half and gave up a late equalizer to Malaysia. South Korea had already qualified for the round of 16, so it didn’t have much of an impact on the outcome of the tournament. However, they will enter the tournament with a sense of urgency. South Korea’s round of 16 opponent is the ‘Middle East powerhouse’ Saudi Arabia. They will face off at the Education Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, at 1 a.m. on March 31.
Fortunately, the team seems to be in good spirits. The team is focused on preparing for the tournament, forgetting about their poor performance in the group stage, and there were plenty of smiles at the team’s training session. According to the Korea Football Association, “Captip” Son Heung-min played goalkeeper and performed a body gag on himself. Laughter erupted everywhere. Heung-min even used a sprinkler to play with the water.
The captain’s sacrifice lifted the team’s spirits. It will be a big boost for the team ahead of the round of 16.
Also on the day, side defender Lee Ki-jae, who had been sidelined with an injury, returned to training. All 26 players gathered on the training field together for the first time. The 25 players on the Asian Cup roster were joined by ‘training partner’ goalkeeper Kim Jun-hong (Gimcheon Sangmu) in the cooler weather. The national team has had its share of injuries. Forward Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton) injured his hip and fullback Kim Jin-soo (Jeonbuk Hyundai) injured his hamstring in the first two games. After the first leg, starting goalkeeper Kim Seung-kyu (Al-Shabab) suffered an unfortunate cruciate ligament tear. Lee Ki-jae was also injured during the group stage.
However, Hwang Hee-chan and Kim Jin-soo recovered from their injuries and came on as substitutes in the third match against Malaysia. Kim Seung-gyu was replaced by Kim Jun-hong, who gave the team a big boost. In addition, Lee Ki-jae, who had been focusing on his treatment, is back.
Speaking to the media, Klinsmann said, “The goal is to be in the final and we will be in the final. From now on, confidence is important. Every time you concede a goal, you’re going to be very upset, you’re going to be upset, you’re going to be annoyed, you’re going to have a lot of emotions, but the most important thing is to believe in yourself.”
Klinsmann added: “Saudi Arabia is a good team, but no team is easy. There were a lot of things we could have done better against Malaysia, but there were also a lot of positives. There were some good plays by the players. I told them that we have to manage our cards and we don’t want to have players who can’t play in the next game. We told ourselves to play with a strict mindset, and we didn’t get any red cards. We also welcomed back Kim Jin-soo (Jeonbuk Hyundai) and Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton). The team is getting better and better. The most important thing is to be confident and believe in ourselves. We came here to win and we have a clear goal. I hope everyone believes in us,” he emphasized.