The Korea Herald


Another uninspiring performance keeps Klinsmann winless as S. Korea coach

By Yonhap

Published : Sept. 8, 2023 - 09:34

    • Link copied

South Korea head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (4th from left) stands for the national anthem ahead of a friendly football match against Wales at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff on Thursday. (Yonhap) South Korea head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (4th from left) stands for the national anthem ahead of a friendly football match against Wales at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The fifth time didn't prove to be the charm for Jurgen Klinsmann and his South Korean men's national football team, as another anemic showing by the Taegeuk Warriors left the German tactician winless after five matches in charge.

The team's latest match resulted in a goalless draw against Wales in Cardiff on Thursday. South Korea barely threatened to score at Cardiff City Stadium in the Welsh capital, while their defense got caught napping a couple of times to allow the home team open looks at the target.

Klinsmann now has three draws and two losses as South Korea's head coach. It is the longest winless skid by a foreign-born head coach to start a South Korea tenure.

Klinsmann needed a win to change the narrative surrounding his work habits. He has faced heat for spending more time in his US home than in South Korea, leaving his assistants to do the grunt work of scouting domestic league players while he has dabbled at television analysis and visited with Europe-based South Korean stars who, for all intents and purposes, don't need extra scouting to be selected to the national team.

A win Thursday would have quieted down some of that criticism, but the draw didn't even feel like a missed opportunity for South Korea, who had few scoring chances.

The amount of individual talent Klinsmann has at his disposal could be object of envy for other coaches, but Klinsmann has yet to figure out what to do with it. As a result, the whole has not been greater than the sum of its parts for South Korea.

South Korea are led by Tottenham Hotspur talisman Son Heung-min, just two seasons removed from leading the Premier League in goals. Their backline is anchored by Kim Min-jae of Bayern Munich, one of the top defenders in Europe today and the only Asian nominee for the prestigious Ballon d'Or award this year. A few other players ply their trade in Europe.

Well before Klinsmann took the South Korean reins, the common knock against him had been that he lacked tactical acumen and that he was more of a manager than a tactician. And five matches in with South Korea, Klinsmann has done nothing to disprove that notion.

South Korea found little room to maneuver against Wales' high pressing. Their outlet passes were often off the mark, and the few that connected with midfielders Hwang In-beom or Park Yong-woo simply died there, instead of finding their ways into the attacking zone.

Son, South Korea's most gifted offensive player, tried to do his part to spark the offense, but only managed a couple of harmless-looking attempts toward the net. He was forced to take matters into his own hands because the offensive process from the back wasn't working.

South Korea won the possession battle and completed more passes than their opponents, but those numbers were deceiving because South Korea held on to the ball for long stretches and made several meaningless lateral or back passes.

In a handful of matches with South Korea, Klinsmann hasn't put his players in position to succeed. He seems to be relying on their individual skills rather than creating a tactical framework in which they could thrive.

Klinsmann's next test is against Saudi Arabia in Newcastle, England, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)