Since he took over the South Korean men's national football team in late February, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has never missed an opportunity to state his goal of winning the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup next year in Qatar.
The German-born coach was at it again on Thursday, as he discussed the importance of South Korea's two friendly matches set for this month: against Tunisia on Friday and Vietnam next Tuesday. At his prematch press conference, Klinsmann said the next two contests represent an opportunity for his staff to get the team ready for the grind that will be the Asian Cup kicking off in January
"We hope fans come to the stadium and enjoy the team. We'd like to win these games," Klinsmann said at the National Football Center in Paju, northwest of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province. "But the most important thing is we keep preparing and growing toward the Asian Cup in Qatar in January. For us coaches, it's a wonderful learning process with the team."
Despite being one of Asia's traditional football powers, South Korea haven't won the Asian Cup since 1960. Whether they can end the drought under Klinsmann remains to be seen, given that he has only picked up one win in his first six matches in charge.
The current iteration of the squad, though, may be the best Klinsmann has had so far. He has a couple of in-form scorers from the Premier League in Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur and Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Son is tied for second place in the league with six goals and Hwang sits in a tie for fourth place with five goals.
"I hope that they simply continue like they do in their club teams," Klinsmann said with a smile. "Obviously, we're happy with every goal Sonny scores and every goal Hee-chan scores."
Klinsmann should also get an injection of offense from the 24-year-old attacker Jeong Woo-yeong, who led the Asian Games in China with eight goals in seven matches and helped South Korea win their third consecutive gold.
Klinsmann, who once played for Jeong's current German club, VfB Stuttgart, said he hoped "a very positive moment" for Jeong and other Asiad members in China will translate into the two upcoming matches.
"Woo-yeong has a lot of talent and he's versatile," Klinsmann said. "He had a very, very difficult year last year with Freiburg. Had very few minutes, unfortunately. Now, he gets playing time and so he's growing. It's exciting for us coaches to see him grow. Let's see, over the next couple of months toward the Asian Cup, how much he will continue to grow."
Source: Yonhap News Agency