South Korea head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Thursday he will try to get his side to play to their strengths against Australia in the quarterfinals of the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup in Qatar.
"We're excited to play them. It will be a 50-50 match. It will be a hard-fought match. We're ready for the battle," Klinsmann said at the Main Media Centre in Doha on the eve of the clash against the Socceroos. "We have to be very alert for their counterattacks. They're very dangerous in that area and in set-pieces. We have a lot of respect but we have also our strengths in which we believe. Hopefully, we can play to our strengths."
The match kicks off at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, south of Doha, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, local time, or 12:30 a.m. Saturday in South Korean time.
South Korea are No. 23 in the FIFA rankings, the third-highest position among AFC sides. Australia sit two spots below.
But Australia have had much smoother sailing up to this point. They won Group B with two wins and a draw and then defeated Indonesia 4-0 in the round of 16. South Korea finished as the runner-up in Group E with a win and two draws, and needed a penalty shootout to knock off 56th-ranked Saudi Arabia in the round of 16.
Ever the optimist, Klinsmann said there were still some positives to take away from the nail-biting win over Saudi Arabia.
"The good thing about the match against Saudi Arabia was that we created many chances," he said, when asked about South Korea's struggles to score despite having 22 shot attempts. "Hopefully, we can create chances against Australia and utilize them."
Australia will enter the match having had two more days of rest than South Korea. The grueling battle against Saudi Arabia, on top of having a shorter recovery time, could also have its impact on South Korean players.
Klinsmann insisted his squad will be ready to battle, fatigue or not.
"The schedule is what it is. You accept it and you move on," the coach said. "We battled through 120 minutes against Saudi Arabia. We will go and battle through whatever it takes against Australia. We're very hungry. We want to move on in this tournament."
In 28 previous meetings against Australia, South Korea have had eight wins, 11 draws and nine losses. Their most recent match came in a friendly in June 2019, with South Korea coming out on top 1-0.
Their most memorable showdown came in the final of the 2015 Asian Cup, where Australia, the host country, defeated South Korea 2-1 in extra time.
Oddsmakers are giving Australia a slightly higher chance to win Friday. And the newspaper Sydney Morning Herald listed Klinsmann being South Korea's coach as one of four reasons that Australia can beat South Korea.
The paper noted concerns among South Korean football fans that Klinsmann is not the right fit for the Taegeuk Warriors and that South Korea have been winning matches in spite of him, not because of him.
When informed of this report, Klinsmann flashed his signature smile and said, "Any other kind of quotes or provocation is totally fine with me. No problem at all."
Klinsmann said he doesn't feel much pressure to end South Korea's Asian Cup title drought of 64 years this month. He wants his players to cherish the experience of playing in a tournament as much as he does.
"I want them to experience what it would mean to get through the end of the tournament and play for the trophy," he said. "Now it gets down to the grinding phase and I love this moment. I hope they enjoy it, too." (Yonhap)