S. Korea coach Klinsmann wants to play 'attractive football' vs. Colombia
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- Preparing for his coaching debut with the South Korean men's national football team, Jurgen Klinsmann said Thursday he would like to see "attractive football" from his players against "hungry" Colombia.
South Korea, world No. 25, will take on 17th-ranked Colombia at 8 p.m. Friday in the city of Ulsan, some 305 kilometers southeast of Seoul. It will be the first match with the Taegeuk Warriors for Klinsmann, who was appointed as successor to Paulo Bento on Feb. 27.
On the eve of the much-anticipated match, Klinsmann said he will stay focused on his own team's strengths.
"In general, preparing a team, my philosophy is always based on the strength of players, no matter what system you use," Klinsmann said at a prematch press conference at Munsu Football Stadium. "For me, it's super interesting, a super learning curve to have now the chance to work with the players, to understand their qualities, to understand their strengths, see a little bit of weaknesses. And then based on that, obviously we want to play attractive football, and we want to play football that the players enjoy."
This is the eighth meeting between South Korea and Colombia. South Korea have so far won four matches, along with two draws and one loss.
South Korea reached the round of 16 at last year's FIFA World Cup under Bento, while Colombia didn't qualify for the tournament. Klinsmann said missing out on the big event will make Colombia that much more motivated against South Korea.
"We're going to meet a Colombian team which is very hungry because they didn't qualify for Qatar and they didn't have the success Korea had in Qatar. So they want to prove a point," Klinsmann said. "We need opponents where we can go eye to eye. We need good teams to play against, to learn and to improve at our end. Colombia are a good team and we can benefit a lot (from playing them)."
Klinsmann, who hasn't had much time to study South Korean players since arriving here on March 8, chose to keep the World Cup squad mostly intact. The group includes two strikers, Hwang Ui-jo of FC Seoul and Cho Gue-sung of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, plus a new addition in Celtic forward Oh Hyeon-gyu.
Oh traveled to Qatar as an emergency backup in case of injuries but was not officially on the squad then.
Klinsmann, a star striker in his playing days, said he has been "very pleased" with the work of his strikers so far this week, calling them "very talented, very driven and hungry for goals."
"This is what attacking players are measured at the end of the day. They're measured on goals," the coach said. "I hope, as a former striker myself, maybe they can learn a little bit as well from me in specific areas. It's been very impressive."
Whereas Bento was reluctant to discuss individual players in public, Klinsmann was more than happy to do so when asked about RCD Mallorca midfielder Lee Kang-in, a creative playmaker who could play a prominent role in Klinsmann's aggressive schemes.
"He's a very, very talented player. Hopefully, I can teach him or give him many messages that he takes in and will grow and will mature," Klinsamann said. "He will get his playing time with us, definitely. Hopefully, he will be one of the players that can make his mark in the future for Korea."
Klinsmann also said Thursday the process of molding South Korea into his own team will take "a bit of time."
"Every coach builds his own little bit of philosophy or approach based on the quality of the players and the strength of the players," Klinsmann said. "So you melt it into a process. You hope that the players are happy in that process and express themselves. Obviously, you get the result as well because you have to win football matches at the end of the day. I'm very excited about this process and step by step, hopefully, you can see that I'm doing a good job and we will get good results."
Klinsmann spent his playing career in five countries, and coached in his native Germany and in the United States. The South Korean job has brought him to Asia for the first time, and he is also in a country where he doesn't speak the language.
Klinsmann called the experience "a learning curve."
"I'd absolutely love to learn Korean. I love languages," he said. "But I know Korean is very difficult for me to learn. I actually started taking classes already, but it will take time."
The nature of competition in this part of the world is also different for Klinsmann, who has coached at European and North American regional championships, and who will now try to win the Asian continental title next year.
"It's a different environment and challenges. We have to learn quickly," Klinsmann said of his Euro-heavy backroom staff. "Hopefully, the team supports us and we will get the results."
After Colombia, South Korea will host Uruguay at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
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