Asian Cup players are the strongest ever…now it’s a ‘Klinsmann trial’

ESPN, a U.S. sports publication that features South Korea men’s national soccer team coach Jürgen Klinsmann (60-photo) on its broadcast panel, has singled out Klinsmann as a factor in the team’s chances of winning the Asian Cup. In an article on Sept. 9, ESPN reported on domestic criticism of Klinsmann and pointed out the reasons why. They pointed out that Klinsmann’s job will be in jeopardy if the team doesn’t perform up to expectations, especially since he is leading what is considered the strongest team in history.

As ESPN pointed out, Klinsmann’s recent history as a coach is not exactly one to rely on. After leading his country to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup in his native Germany, Klinsmann was named head coach of Germany’s most prestigious club, Bayern Munich, in July 2008, but was fired midseason. Philipp Lahm, who played for Munich at the time, later accused Klinsmann of tactical incompetence in his autobiography.

In 2016, Klinsmann took charge of the U.S. national team, which slipped in the North and Central American qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, failing to qualify for the tournament for the first time in 32 years. He then took over the reins of Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin in late 2019, but stepped down after 76 days following a falling out with the club.

ESPN reports that Klinsmann hasn’t been able to shake off skepticism since taking over the reins of the South Korean national team. He was criticized for his lack of tactical competence and for breaking his promise to stay in South Korea. “Media and fans have even gone so far as to calculate the amount of time he spends in South Korea compared to the amount of time he spends at his home in California,” it said.

For Klinsmann, it’s a time of evaluation. Whenever he’s had a bad game or questioned his roster in the past, he’s said, “Our goal is to win the Asian Cup,” and he’s asked us to look at it as a building process.

If current projections hold true, South Korea will get their first test against powerhouse Iran in the quarterfinals of the tournament. ESPN pointed out that his predecessor at the 2019 tournament, Paulo Bento, “was given a chance until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after losing to Qatar in the quarterfinals, but it’s doubtful Klinsmann will be given a chance in a similar situation.”

At the end of the day, the only way Klinsmann can regain trust is by performing. Looking at the current roster, it’s not an impossible task. They have captain Son Heung-min, the first Asian to score in the English Premier League (EPL), world-class defender Kim Min-jae (28-Bayern Munich), and next-generation ace Lee Kang-in (23), a starter at French Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain.

However, the national team’s thin depth is a weakness. In the tournament, we don’t know what will happen. Klinsmann’s skills will be put to the ultimate test.


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