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Knives out for Klinsmann after S Korea’s ‘shameful’ exit

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  • February 7, 2024


DOHA:

Jurgen Klinsmann’s position as South Korea coach came under intense pressure on Wednesday after what local media called a “shameful” and “humiliating” Asian Cup semi-final defeat to Jordan.

The Koreans crashed out 2-0 to a team ranked 64 places below them in the world and they failed to muster a shot on target despite boasting Son Heung-min in attack.

The German Klinsmann, who came into the tournament vowing to win South Korea’s first Asian Cup in 64 years, said after the deserved defeat on Tuesday that he would not quit.

He was backed publicly by some of his players, primarily the captain Son, who said the 59-year-old coach will become “even stronger”.

But the reaction of fans and media was scathing, saying the Jordan collapse was just the latest example of questionable tactics and team selections.

Most of all, Klinsmann’s army of detractors arrowed in once more on the way he wears a ready-made smile, even in defeat.

“While the players showed their disappointment and forced smiles, Klinsmann’s face was filled with laughter,” said the Sports Hankook website.

“It was a scene that was extremely perplexing to comprehend, considering he is the coach of the Korean national team.”

A World Cup winner as a player for Germany, Klinsmann was never a very popular choice in South Korea following his appointment a year ago.

Asked by AFP on Tuesday if he would quit, Klinsmann said: “I am not planning to do anything.”

He said he would analyse the tournament and talk to Korean football officials, but “apart from that, I am not thinking of anything”.

He found a sympathetic ear in Tottenham star Son, who apologised to fans and said he felt sorry for Klinsmann.

“Even before the tournament the perception of him was very negative, so I believe the coach must have felt a tremendous amount of pressure,” said Son.

“Despite the difficult circumstances he managed to cope well.

“I was deeply touched by how he took care of the players without showing any sign of frustration and never giving up until the end,” he added.

South Korea lived on the edge throughout the Asian Cup, scoring late in games on four occasions on the way to the semi-finals.

Korean media dubbed it “zombie football” for the way they kept coming back from the dead, but they were finally buried by a Jordan side who were simply better.

South Korea’s MK Sports website said Klinsmann’s team had given “a pitiful performance”.

“They made Jordan look like Brazil,” it said.

“It wasn’t even an inspiring match. South Korea were beaten without even putting up a fight.”

Klinsmann has been under fire in South Korea from day one because of his refusal to live in the country and his coaching record, which has never matched his stellar playing career.

As a coach he is best known for managing the United States in 2011-2016, during which he won the continental Gold Cup.

Before South Korea came calling, his previous job was a 10-week stint at Hertha Berlin in 2019-2020.

His relentless optimism has irked South Korean fans and media, and he was mocked for previously telling reporters to book their hotels in Qatar until February 10 — the day of the final.

Klinsmann said “a coach has to be positive”, but his team’s Asian Cup exit will test his powers to the limit.

“I think there was a lot of good stuff that we saw,” he said.

“This is a team that’s growing, a team that still has to develop towards the World Cup in the US, Mexico and Canada over the next two and a half years.”

South Korea return to World Cup qualifying next month when they face Thailand home and away, having made a positive start to that campaign with two wins out of two.

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