Klinsmann credits South Korean players who made step up to European leagues

He has experience managing Germany and the United States, and he is hoping to break South Korea's 64-year trophy drought in the continental competition

Reuters
Published : 14 Jan 2024, 11:41 AM
Updated : 14 Jan 2024, 11:41 AM

South Korea coach Juergen Klinsmann praised players from the national team who have established themselves in Europe's top leagues, saying on Sunday that Asian football has vastly improved in the last decade to give them such opportunities.

South Korea captain Son Heung-min and fellow forward Hwang Hee-chan play in the Premier League -- where they have 22 goals between them this season -- while Lee Kang-in and Kim Min-jae moved to Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich, respectively.

"It's a big leap to bring top players to Europe... The key to Asian teams to improve their national team level is to send players to top European leagues," Klinsmann told reporters ahead of their Asian Cup group opener against Bahrain on Monday.

"You've got to give players credit to move to another country, it looks easy on paper but it's not. You have to adjust yourself to the people there, adjust to the language, understand a different style of football.

"I've experienced it of late, you want to see family and you miss your friends. So when you see Hwang or Son score goals (in England) and Kim moves from Napoli (to Bayern), you've got to give them a lot of credit since there's so much at stake."

Klinsmann has experience managing Germany and the United States, and he is hoping to break South Korea's 64-year trophy drought in the continental competition.

The German, who was appointed 11 months ago on a contract until the 2026 World Cup, pointed out World Cup upsets to chart Asia's rise in the sport.

"Asian football has improved dramatically in the last 10-15 years. Japan sending home Germany (at the World Cup) was a big example, Saudi Arabia beating Argentina, South Korea beating Portugal - so many examples," he said.

"I'm privileged to coach this Korean team, I've learned a lot of things. We have a strong team and the goal is to play the final.

"I may have won the Gold Cup with US or Euros with Germany, but I want to win it (Asian Cup) because this team has qualities to win the tournament, but it will be a marathon."

Hwang has come into his own as a key player in his third season with Wolverhampton Wanderers and he played down suggestions that Europe-based players would be fatigued due to the intensity of top-tier leagues.

"A lot of my team mates play in Europe but others also play in the K League which wrapped up (last month). I don't think that's a big issue, it's a special moment, it's an honour and joy to play for Korea," the 27-year-old said.

"We don't speak about how tired, stressed or fatigued we are. We discuss what we can do to get the results for Korea. As a player I want to play as many minutes as possible."