Klinsmann banks on Europe-based players to snap South Korea's Asian Cup drought

Germany adds Hotspur's Son Heung-min in his 26-man squad as well as Bayern Munich defender Kim Min-jaen in an attempt to win a first title since 1960

By Reuters

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Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min. Reuters File
Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min. Reuters File

Published: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 6:15 PM

Last updated: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 6:16 PM

South Korea coach Juergen Klinsmann will look to captain Son Heung-min and his squad's Europe-based players to steer the nation to their first Asian Cup title in 64 years when he leads his team into next month's continental championship in Qatar.

Klinsmann has included Tottenham Hotspur's Son in his 26-man squad as well as Bayern Munich defender Kim Min-jae, Paris Saint-Germain's Lee Kang-in and Wolverhampton Wanderers' Hwang Hee-chan in an attempt to win a first title since 1960.

"When you go through the roster and you go through the skeleton of a team ... I think you can be really proud as Korean fans and journalists," Klinsmann told a media conference in Seoul on Thursday.

"We have a lot of different pieces in that roster and that makes us one of the favourites for the Asian Cup.

"What we need to do is to fine-tune these elements in the next couple of weeks and then go into that tournament with confidence and with the willingness to win the title."

The Koreans are one of the continent's traditional powers and have qualified for every World Cup since 1986, reaching the semi-finals in 2002 when they co-hosted the tournament with neighbours Japan.

But their recent record at regional level is disappointing, with the country not winning the continent's premier title since the second of back-to-back successes were secured in 1960.

The Koreans claimed that title ahead of Israel, who were kicked out of the Asian Football Confederation in 1974, as well as the Republic of China - now Taiwan - and South Vietnam.

Since then there have been runners-up finishes in 1972, 1980, 1988 and, most recently, in 2015, when a Son-inspired side lost out in extra time to an Ange Postecoglou-coached Australia.

"A competition like this is about timing," said Klinsmann, whose team will face Bahrain in their group stage opener on Jan. 15 before taking on Jordan and Malaysia.

"You want your players to peak exactly at this time, when this tournament happens.


"I have a good feeling because (the players) are doing well in their clubs, they're healthy, they're fit, they're ambitious and they're very hungry. This is the foundation for playing a good tournament.

"Once the tournament starts it all needs to fall into place and you need a little bit of luck too.

"It's 64 years, and 64 years is a long time for Korea, so it's about time we get this done."

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