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Korea's Asian Cup flop feeds fans' fury

Feb. 7, 2024 - 11:53 By Yoon Min-sik
Son Heung-min (right), the captain of the South Korean men's national soccer team, embraces his coach Juergen Klinsmann after the 2-0 loss to Jordan in the semifinals match of the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar on Tuesday at the Ahamd bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan. (Yonhap)

South Korea's loss to Jordan in the Asian Cup is casting doubt on the future of the national team, and drawing online fury from soccer fans.

Korea lost 2-0 in the early hours of Wednesday (Korea time), in the semifinals of the top continental tournament.

With Korea's shot at the Asian cup dashed yet again, South Korean supporters are voicing their disdain. Some have been calling for head coach Juergen Klinsmann's resignation ever since his squad's shaky performance in the group matches.

Klinsmann's tenure with the team has been met with criticism from fans and media, from his lack of tactical actions to his supposed lack of commitment -- he has long been accused of not spending enough time with the team.

The coach, however, did not directly comment on his immediate future, acknowledging that there is "a lot of work ahead of us."

"I am not planning to do anything. ... I plan to analyze this tournament, go back to Korea and obviously talk with the federation about what was good and what was not so good in the tournament," he said at the post-match press conference at Ahamd bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, west of Doha.

While team captain Son Heung-min gave his coach a vote of confidence, the 31-year-old had a vague comment about his own future saying, "I will have to think about whether I will still be a part of the national team" when asked about South Korea's performance in the 2026 World Cup.

Son explained that the comment was merely theoretical since the coach may no longer select him for the national squad and "you never know what the future holds." But the comment has stirred speculation among the soccer fans here.

Han Joon-hee, the vice president of the Korea Football Association, downplayed Son's comment and said Son is "a kind of player who would play whenever his country needs him to, no matter how exhausted."

"At Son's age he would be fatigued. Nevertheless, Son laying down everything when the country needs him? I don't think that's his character," he said.

While Son's comments fan speculations, Cho Gue-sung is facing fans' criticism for the lost chance of a goal at the 88th minute.

Cho got a chance inside the penalty box in the 88th minute but went down instead of taking the shot. The officials rewarded him with a yellow card for simulation. Last-minute surges by the Koreans yielded no reward.

Cho Gue-sung (left) attempts a header against Jordan at the Ahamd bin Ali Stadium in Qatar on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Despite being among the top-ranked teams in the FIFA, ranking at No. 23, South Korea has never won the Asian Cup since hosting the 1960 event in Seoul. The closest it had come in recent years was the final of the 2015 tournament in Australia, where it fell 2-1 to the home team.

The team conceded a goal in all of its six matches in Qatar, despite facing much lower-ranked teams, with the exception of No. 25 Australia. Bahrain ranks No. 86, Malaysia No. 130, Saudi Arabia No. 56, and the Koreans' latest tormentor Jordan is ranked at No. 87.

South Korea and Jordan drew 2-2 in their earlier face-off in the Gruop E match on Jan. 20, as the last-minute own goal by Yazan Al Arab helped the Koreans avoid their first loss in the tournament.

Son Heung-min expresses his gratitude toward the fans after South Korea's 2-0 loss to Jordan in the semifinals match of the Asian Cup in Qatar on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

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