Jürgen Klinsmann has targeted victory at the 2023 AFC Asian Cup – Qatar and a deep run at the next FIFA World Cup Finals when he was officially unveiled as the new head coach of South Korea on Thursday.
The German, a 1990 FIFA World Cup winner, was confirmed as Paulo Bento’s replacement last week and arrived in Seoul on Wednesday ahead of a pair of friendly matches against Colombia and Uruguay later this month.
Jürgen Klinsmann has prioritised ending the Koreans’ AFC Asian Cup drought, which extends back more than 63 years to the second of the nation’s two back-to-back continental titles won on home soil in 1960, before surpassing the country’s recent achievements at the FIFA World Cup.
“I’m very ambitious to have this opportunity and I’m confident I will do a really good job,” the 58-year-old told a press conference. “The job will be measured on results.”
“The goal is to win the Asian Cup, so you can measure me on that goal. This is the beauty of a result-driven environment, you’ve got to deliver results so hopefully we get them for you.”
“In sports you want to win trophies, you want to win something you can be proud of for the rest of your life, so to set clear goals is important.”
“The AFC Asian Cup is more short term because it’s in 10 months and then you go into FIFA World Cup qualifying and then you set goals for the next World Cup, once you’re qualified. ”
“Based on Korean history, and the fact you were already in a semi-final in 2002 when you hosted the World Cup, you should set your goals high and tell your players that they are high goals but doable goals.”
“I hope that we can go in a direction where we are able to get into the final four of the World Cup again.”
The Koreans famously reached the semifinals in 2002, defeating Italy and Spain in the knockout rounds before falling to Germany in the last four amid a fevered atmosphere on home soil.
In the intervening years, however, performances have fallen short of those levels, with the country only advancing to the knockout rounds at two FIFA World Cup tournaments since, in 2010 and 2022. On both occasions they were eliminated in the Round of 16.
One of his key tasks, said the former United States and Germany coach, was to instill greater confidence within a squad that was knocked out of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar by Brazil.
“The Korean team is always very competitive, always with a lot of hunger,” said Klinsmann. “No matter in what competition it was difficult to beat Korea. On the other side, sometimes when I watch them…I wished there was sometimes more belief, some more confidence to go even further than you end up going.”
“This is something that is in many nations. Look at Argentina, or Brazil or Spain, not Germany in the last two World Cups but in 2014. It has a lot to do with confidence, to go all the way to the end. And this is something I can help with, to bring more belief. To not only pass the group stage, but going further only than the next round. This is our goal.”
Klinsmann will also look to revitalise captain Heung-min Son after a difficult period for the Tottenham Hotspur striker, who has failed to hit the form that saw him finish as the joint-highest scorer in the English Premier League last season.
“I’m a big fan of Sonny,” said Klinsmann. “He had a difficult FIFA World Cup because he was not healthy. I saw all the games and I felt for him, but I think this is a normal period. All players go through ups and downs. The situation also at Tottenham is not so easy.”
“I hope I’m going to see him in two weeks and he comes with a smile and is hungry for the national team. I will get to know him much, much better and I can give him encouragement and motivation to enjoy himself in whatever role and however he plays on the field.”
“That is down to those conversations. You figure that out when you talk to the players, what is everyone’s best role and how you can cover each other.”