S. Korea sack Klinsmann after Asian Cup exit

The Korea Football Association (KFA) sacked national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann on Friday, after their semifinal exit at the Asian Cup and amid criticism of his leadership.

The National Team Committee, a KFA advisory body, had recommended the sacking of Klinsmann on Thursday, with KFA technical director Hwangbo Kwan saying there were “various reasons” to doubt his ability to exercise leadership over the team.

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South Korea’s exit from the Asian Cup following a 2-0 loss to Jordan in the semifinals this month, which extended their 64-year wait for a third title, led to calls from fans and some politicians for the 59-year-old’s dismissal.

KFA president Chung Mong-gyu said Klinsmann’s tenure fell short of expectations.

“Coach Klinsmann failed to demonstrate leadership that we expected from the national team coach, including game management, player management and work attitude, which elevate the competitiveness of the national team,” Chung said.

Klinsmann’s popularity in Korea nosedived during the Asian Cup, with many criticising his attitude after he was seen smiling despite poor performances from his team.

The German’s leadership was also called into question after an altercation between players on the eve of the semifinal left captain Son Heung-Min with a dislocated finger.

The Tottenham forward played against Jordan with the index and middle fingers of his right hand strapped together.

Throughout his tenure with South Korea, Klinsmann was often criticised for mostly working in Los Angeles, where he resides, despite having said that he would spend time in South Korea.

Ahead of Friday’s announcement, Klinsmann expressed his “sincere gratitude” to his players, staff and fans in an Instagram post.

“Thank you so much for all your support taking us to the semifinal of the Asian Cup and an incredible journey over the last 12 months with not losing 13 games in a row before the semifinal,” he said.

On Thursday, Yonhap News TV reported that ex-South Korean international Hong Myung-bo is among the names being considered to temporarily lead the team for the upcoming 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Klinsmann, a World Cup winner as a player in 1990 with West Germany, previously coached Germany and United States national teams, as well as Bundesliga side Bayern Munich.

He replaced Paulo Bento as South Korea coach last year after the Portuguese manager stepped down following their loss to Brazil in the 2022 World Cup round-of-16.

Ahead of Klinsmann’s appointment last year, Korean media reported that there was a lack of communication between members of the National Team Committee during the hiring process.

The reports were denied by the committee’s head, Michael Muller, following the announcement of Klinsmann’s appointment, with Muller adding that the German coach was hired after committee members reached a “final agreement.”

Klinsmann’s time with South Korea got off to a rough start as they went five games without a win, losing to Uruguay and Peru and being held by Colombia, El Salvador and Wales.

Their form improved ahead of the Asian Cup with a run of six straight victories and despite some poor performances in Qatar they still made it to the semifinals, an improvement on the 2019 tournament when they lost in the quarterfinal.

However, South Korea were unable to register a single shot on target in their semifinal against Jordan, who are ranked 64 places below them in the FIFA rankings.

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