New South Korea coach Klinsmann targets Asian Cup title

Newly appointed South Korea coach Juergen Klinsmann wasted little time in setting his first target for the team after arriving at Incheon airport on Wednesday, saying he wants to end their Asian Cup drought, which has spanned more than 60 years.

Former Germany coach Klinsmann, 58, has signed a contract until the 2026 World Cup and succeeds Paulo Bento, who stepped down in December after South Korea’s World Cup round of 16 defeat by Brazil in Qatar.

South Korea were the inaugural Asian Cup champions in 1956 and last won the competition when they retained the trophy as hosts in 1960. They have already qualified for the 2023 tournament in Qatar, which has been delayed until January.

“Our goal is to win the Asian Cup next year,” Klinsmann told reporters, reeling off the names of previous South Korea coaches and their recent successes.

“When you have a team and a history for the last 20-25 years here that was built by coaches like Guus Hiddink, Uli Stielike, Paulo Bento, I think the goal has to be winning the Asian Cup,” he said.

Dutch coach Hiddink led South Korea to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals. In December under Portuguese coach Bento, they stunned Portugal en route to reaching the final 16. South Korea also dumped former champions Germany out of the group stages in the 2018 World Cup.

“Winning is the goal because you proved in Qatar and you beat big nations, you beat Portugal in Qatar and four years ago you beat Germany so you can do very well,” Klinsmann said.

“When this opportunity came up and we had to talk, I was very excited because I think it’s a very good team.”

Klinsmann, who was announced as Bento’s replacement last month, won the 1990 World Cup as a player and coached his native Germany to the semi-finals of the 2006 tournament.

He also managed his former club Bayern Munich before taking over as head coach of the U.S. national team from 2011-16. His last coaching role was a 10-week stint in charge of Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin in 2020.

Klinsmann’s first match as South Korea’s coach will be a home friendly against Colombia on March 24.

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