Football: New South Korea coach Klinsmann targets Asian Cup title

Jurgen Klinsmann speaking to reporters after his arrival at Incheon Airport. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL – Newly appointed South Korea coach Jurgen Klinsmann wasted little time in setting his first target for the team after arriving at Seoul’s Incheon Airport on Wednesday, saying he wants to end their Asian Cup drought, which has spanned more than 60 years.

The former Germany coach, 58, has signed a 3½-year contract until the 2026 World Cup and succeeds Paulo Bento, who stepped down in December after the Taegeuk Warriors’ World Cup last-16 defeat by Brazil in Qatar.

South Korea were the inaugural Asian Cup champions in 1956 and last won the competition when they retained the trophy as hosts in 1960. Since then, they have been losing finalists four times. They have already qualified for the 2023 tournament in Qatar, which has been delayed until January.

Klinsmann told reporters: “When you have a team and a history for the last 20-25 years here that was built by coaches like Guus Hiddink, Uli Stielike, Paulo Bento, I think the goal has to be winning the Asian Cup.”

Dutch coach Hiddink led South Korea to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals. In December, under Portuguese coach Bento, they stunned Portugal en route to reaching the knockout phase. They also dumped then champions Germany out in the group stage in the 2018 World Cup.

“Winning is the goal because you proved in Qatar and you beat big nations, you beat Portugal in Qatar and four years ago you beat Germany, so you can do very well,” Klinsmann added.

“When this opportunity came up and we had to talk, I was very excited because I think it’s a very good team.”

Klinsmann, who was announced as Bento’s replacement in February, won the 1990 World Cup as a player and coached his native Germany to the semi-finals of the 2006 tournament.

He also helmed his former club Bayern Munich before taking over as coach of the United States national team from 2011 to 2016. His last coaching role was a 10-week stint in charge of Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin in 2020.

Klinsmann had a successful playing career at clubs such as Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern but some South Korean fans have questioned his record as a coach – his biggest achievements are a World Cup third place and a Concacaf Gold Cup.

He insisted, however, that he is aiming for success and is “very proud and very privileged” to work with the national team.

“That’s why I am here and I’m looking forward to it,” he added.

His first match will be a friendly against Colombia on March 24. REUTERS, AFP

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