The Korea Herald

ssg
지나쌤

Klinsmann says S. Koreans have 'a lot of belief' that they can win Asian Cup

By Yonhap

Published : Jan. 2, 2024 - 20:47

    • Link copied

Members of the South Korean men's national football team participating in the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup pose for photos during the Korea Football Association (KFA) Awards ceremony in Seoul on Tue. in this photo provided by the KFA. (Yonhap) Members of the South Korean men's national football team participating in the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup pose for photos during the Korea Football Association (KFA) Awards ceremony in Seoul on Tue. in this photo provided by the KFA. (Yonhap)

Jurgen Klinsmann, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, said Tuesday his players are confident they can end a decadeslong drought at the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup kicking off this month in Qatar.

"We're ready to go to Qatar. We're full of energy. We have a lot of belief that we can do well in Qatar and bring the Asian Cup back to Korea after 64 years," Klinsmann said during the annual Korea Football Association (KFA) Awards ceremony in Seoul. The national team gathered for a sendoff on the stage before departing for Abu Dhabi later Tuesday to set up training camp for the Asian Cup.

"This is our goal. This is what we work for every single day," Klinsmann continued. "We all hope that we can make you very, very happy six weeks from now."

The top Asian men's football tournament kicks off Jan. 12 and the champions will be crowned on Feb. 10.

South Korea will try to win their first Asian Cup title since 1960.

Veteran midfielder Lee Jae-sung said he will fully embrace the pressure that will accompany South Korea's quest for the elusive trophy.

"I love the word 'challenge,'" the Mainz 05 midfielder said. "And this has been going on for 64 years. We will absolutely bring home the championship trophy."

In a media scrum after the sendoff ceremony, Lee said heightened expectations from fans won't be an issue for his team. Featuring some bright stars shining in European leagues, this edition of the South Korean team is considered the most talented one for the country in years.

"We're fueled and inspired by our fans' support. It doesn't put any pressure on us," Lee said. "We think we have a great opportunity to lift the Asian Cup trophy. We'll try to be confident, but not arrogant, and look to win every match to win the tournament."

Bayern Munich defender Kim Min-jae, named the 2023 KFA Male Player of the Year at the ceremony, said he is ready to lock things down at the back while his teammates up front take care of the offense.

"We have a ton of fire power and we've been scoring every match," Kim said, referring to South Korea's run of 18 goals in their past four matches. "Defenders will have to stay focused. I think we'll be leading in many of the matches we'll play there. If we can take care of business at our own end, we'll have good results at the end. The objective is to win the Asian Cup."

The traveling group on Tuesday mostly featured players from the domestic K League, along with a handful of Europe-based players who had flown back home late December for a six-day indoor training camp in Seoul.

Other players from European leagues, including Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Lee Kang-in of Paris Saint-Germain, will join the national team in Abu Dhabi this week. The team will hop over to Qatar on Jan. 10.

At No. 23 in the most recent FIFA rankings, South Korea are the highest-ranked nation in Group E at the Asian Cup. They will kick things off against Bahrain (No. 86) on Jan. 15, and will later play Jordan (No. 87) on Jan. 20 and Malaysia (No. 130) on Jan. 25.

There are six groups of four. The top two nations from each group, plus the four best third-place teams, will qualify for the round of 16.

While in Abu Dhabi, South Korea will face Iraq on Saturday in their final Asian Cup tuneup match. Iraq will be playing out of Group D at the Asian Cup, and if South Korea win Group E and Iraq finish in second place in Group D, they will square off in the round of 16 on Jan. 31. (Yonhap)