Klinsmann getting to know South Korea's squad and its fans
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — More than six years after leaving his job as head coach of the United States, Jurgen Klinsmann returns to international soccer when South Korea takes on Colombia in a friendly on Friday.
The Korea Football Association last month hired Klinsmann on a contract that runs until the end of the 2026 World Cup, to be held in North America. The 58 year-old German coach, who won the World Cup as a player in 1990, has already targeted success at next January’s Asian Cup.
The sold-out game with Colombia is South Korea’s first since losing to Brazil in the Round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup last December. The South Koreans will host Uruguay in Seoul four days later — the teams drew 0-0 at the World Cup in Qatar.
“These two matches against Colombia and Uruguay are very obviously exciting for us new coaches to get to know the team, to get to know the players, and to understand more and more about football in Korea ... about the fans, media and everyone,” Klinsmann said at a training camp north of Seoul.
His main priority, though, is getting to know the players.
“So I will hopefully get a lot of time, a lot of time talking to the players," he said. "It’s a big learning curve for me too, but hopefully I’m a great learner.”
Klinsmann succeeds Portuguese coach Paulo Bento and has only made one enforced change to the squad that went to the World Cup. He also confirmed that Son Heung-min will continue as captain.
Son plays for Tottenham Hotspur, the English Premier League club where Klinsmann had two spells as a striker between 1994 and 1999.
“At Tottenham, we still have people who spent time with coach Klinsmann back in his playing days, and he has such a sterling reputation,” Son said. “I have only had brief conversations with him, but I could already tell he was a great man who cares so much about players. Tottenham officials told me we have an exceptional coach for South Korea.”
Overall, five of Asia’s six World Cup teams are in action with a run of international friendlies.
Japan retained Hajime Moriyasu and he will take the team into a reversal of South Korea’s South American opposition, hosting Uruguay on Friday in Tokyo and then Colombia in Osaka on Tuesday.
Australia pushed eventual champion Argentina all the way in their second-round match in Qatar. Coach Graham Arnold has named four uncapped players as the Socceroos start preparations for the Asian Cup with games against Ecuador in Sydney and Melbourne.
Of the three Asian teams which failed to progress past the group stage at the World Cup, Saudi Arabia, which still has coach Herve Renard in charge, takes on Venezuela and Bolivia.
Iran has replaced Carlos Queiroz with home-grown manager Amir Ghalenoei and hosts Russia in Tehran.
Queiroz has gone to Qatar to succeed Felix Sanchez, who lost all three World Cup games on home soil in November. The former Real Madrid coach will, however, have to wait to make his Qatar debut.
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John Duerden, The Associated Press