INCHEON -- Jurgen Klinsmann, new head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, wasted little time stating his goal for the team: winning.
"Our goal is to win the Asian Cup next year," the German football legend told reporters at Incheon International Airport early Wednesday, arriving in the country that announced his appointment at the end of February. "When you have a team and a history of the last 20, 25 years here, it was built by coaches like Guus Hiddink, Uli Stielike and Paulo Bento, I think the goal has to be winning the Asian Cup."
South Korea's most recent Asian Cup title came in 1960. The next tournament will be played in Qatar in January next year.
Klinsmann reeled off names of some of the foreign-born coaches that had led South Korea before him. Hiddink is the most successful of the group, having led South Korea to the semifinals at the 2002 FIFA World Cup here. Then last year, Bento became the second foreign coach to take South Korea to the knockouts, when the Taegeuk Warriors stunned Portugal en route to reaching the round of 16 in Qatar.
"You proved in Qatar that you can beat big nations. You beat Portugal in Qatar," Klinsmann said, and then added with a wry smile, "Four years ago (at the 2018 World Cup in Russia), you beat Germany."
Klinsmann was greeted by a huge throng of media in the early hours of Wednesday and said the reception was "overwhelming."
"I am very proud and very privileged to have this opportunity to come to Korea and work for the national team, and to hopefully have success," he said. "I think they've done a very, very good job in Qatar, and I hope I can bring even more success."
He has some history with South Korea and Korean football. Klinsmann played at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, and returned to the country in 2002 to work as a commentator during the World Cup. He visited South Korea again in 2017 to watch his goalkeeper son, Jonathan, play for the United States at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Then during last year's World Cup, Klinsmann worked with Cha Du-ri, former South Korea international and son of Korean football icon Cha Bum-kun, on FIFA's Technical Study Group.
Klinsmann's connection with Du-ri, and also his friendship with the senior Cha dating back to their Bundesliga days in the 1980s, has led to speculation that the junior Cha will join Klinsmann's backroom staff.
"I am really looking forward to learning a lot from people here in South Korea," he said. "I hope the team can learn a lot from me and my group of people."
Klinsmann was a legendary player. He helped West Germany to the 1990 World Cup title in Italy. He is the first player to score at least three goals at three consecutive World Cups. He then coached Germany to third place at the 2006 World Cup on home soil, and later the United States to the last 16 in 2014. He was fired by the Americans in 2016 when the country fell to the bottom of their World Cup qualification table then.
He never enjoyed quite the same success at the club level, with only short stints for Bayern Munich and Hertha BSC.
Klinsmann has faced criticism for lacking tactical chops and his first opportunity to silence his detractors will come in just a few weeks. His South Korea debut will be in a friendly match against Colombia on March 24 in Ulsan, some 310 kilometers south of Seoul, with another friendly against Uruguay coming up four days later in Seoul.
Klinsmann will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Thursday at the National Football Center in Paju, about 30 km northwest of Seoul. He also plans to attend a K League 1 match between FC Seoul and Ulsan Hyundai FC at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Sunday. (Yonhap)