It’s hard to tell until the lid is lifted, but a vague picture emerges of what national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s “autonomous soccer” will look like and produce.
The national team takes on Singapore on Saturday at Seoul World Cup Stadium in the first match of Group C of the 2026 North and Central American World Cup Asia Second Qualifying Round. After reaching the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar a year ago, the team has played eight matches under Klinsmann, winning three, drawing two and losing two, scoring 15 goals and conceding six.
Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur) and Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain) each scored three goals, the most since Klinsmann took over, while Hwang Eui-jo (Norwich City) scored twice. Hwang In-beom (Tsubena Zvezda), Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich), Jung Woo-young (Stuttgart), Cho Kyu-sung (Mitwilan) and Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton) each scored once. The opponents have scored two own goals (Tunisia, Vietnam).
Klinsmann kept his roster largely unchanged from the October A match. This is largely due to the task of improving organization for the 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar next January.
While the 23-man squad as a whole is in good shape, it’s a different story individually. The Europeans have to deal with jet lag and weather adaptation. There are also some resources that feel like “ticking time bombs,” such as Kim Min-jae, who has been playing four days apart since the start of the season and has accumulated enough fatigue to suggest that he is being overworked.
Of the 20 players on the field, excluding the three goalkeepers, there are a total of eight Koreans. All but one, Moon Sun-min (Jeonbuk Hyundai), are on defense. Kim Young-kwon, Kim Tae-hwan, Seol Young-woo, Jung Seung-hyun (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Ki-je (Suwon Samsung), Kim Jin-soo (Jeonbuk Hyundai), and Lee Sun-min (Gwangju FC) are the other seven. Excluding Lee Ki-jae and Lee Soon-min, the other six players had to travel to Thailand and Malaysia to compete in the K League Cup, the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL), and were just as exhausted as Kim Min-jae. Moon Sun-min and Kim Jin-soo are also suffering from mental fatigue due to the team’s poor performance.
Singapore, who are outclassed by South Korea in terms of objective strength, may resort to the obvious countermeasures of ‘counterattack after counterattack’ and utilizing set pieces such as corners and free kicks. In the end, it will come down to how clever Klinsmann himself is.
During the pre-match press conference at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Friday, Klinsmann said, “I don’t think Singapore is an underdog at all,” referring to his experience watching the Lions City-Bukhyundai Hyundai ACL Group Stage 4 match (Lions City won 2-0) in Singapore on April 8. I went to Singapore and watched a professional team play and saw them beat a strong Korean team. I felt like it was a warning to the national team. It’s not like we think we’re going to win, we’re serious. Singapore is a team that can score from set pieces or on the counterattack. We will be more serious and serious than ever,” he said, adding that they will approach Singapore with a hawk’s eye. 무지개토토