The Korea Herald


S. Korea chasing 2nd straight win under Klinsmann with Asiad gold medalists on hand

By Yonhap

Published : Oct. 12, 2023 - 09:40

    • Link copied

Members of the South Korean men's national football team train for a friendly match against Tunisia at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Wednesday. (Yonhap) Members of the South Korean men's national football team train for a friendly match against Tunisia at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The South Korean men's national football team will look to win their second straight match under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, with youngsters fresh off their gold medal-winning performance at the Asian Games in the fold.

South Korea, world No. 26, will host 29th-ranked Tunisia at 8 p.m. Friday at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul. It will be the first of two friendlies for South Korea this month, with Vietnam to follow next Tuesday.

It will be South Korea's seventh match with Klinsmann in charge. The Taegeuk Warriors had three draws and two losses in the German tactician's first five matches, before beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 last month to get the monkey off Klinsmann's back.

That victory came in Newcastle, England, and Klinsmann will now try to pick up his first win in his adopted country.

The 26-man roster features some of the usual suspects, such as Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur and Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers, South Korea's only two Premier Leaguers at the moment.

Son is currently tied for second place in goals this season with six, and Hwang sits one goal behind in a three-way tie for fourth place in that department.

Both international veterans are banged up, though. Son, in particular, has been dealing with a groin injury that has forced him out of club training. Hwang suffered a hamstring injury earlier in the season and has been a brittle player the past couple of years.

At his press conference Monday, Klinsmann said he doesn't plan to curtail the minutes for Son or Hwang and claimed both would want to play the full 90 minutes for their country.

Son was held out of a training session Wednesday, and his status for Friday's match remains up in the air.

If Son can't go, Klinsmann could lean on the 24-year-old forward Jeong Woo-yeong for offense. Jeong led the Asian Games with eight goals in seven matches to help South Korea capture their third straight gold medal.

Jeong is one of four members of the Asiad squad on Klinsmann's team for this month, joined by midfielders Lee Kang-in and Hong Hyun-seok, and defender Seol Young-woo.

Even after getting the first win out of the way, Klinsmann continues to face criticism over spending more time overseas than in South Korea. In Monday's presser, Klinsmann defended his frequent traveling by saying his job "is international, not domestic."

A convincing win over an opponent stronger than Saudi Arabia would help silence Klinsmann's critics, with more important matches on the horizon.

After two October friendlies, South Korea will begin their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign in November, with one match at home and another in China scheduled.

Then it will be on to the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup in January in Qatar. Klinsmann has repeatedly said his biggest short-term goal with South Korea is to win the Asian Cup and end the country's continental title drought at 63 years.

South Korea and Tunisia have faced each other twice so far. They had a goalless draw in Tunisia in 2002, and Tunisia prevailed 1-0 in Seoul in 2014. (Yonhap)