Wales + Saudi Arabia Friendlies Preview + Klinsmann Controversies

South Korea coach Jurgen Klinsmann has come across serious criticism in the month and a half leading up to South Korea’s September friendlies against Wales (9/7/2023) and Saudi Arabia (9/12/2023).

It all started with an announcement in early August that Klinsmann would be working remotely from the US ahead of the September friendlies, which are in the UK. He has not set foot in Korea since the last round of friendlies in June and has been doing all of his media appearances on Zoom. Of course, this was not a good look and shows just how little he cares about the K League. When asked how he was monitoring the K League, he replied that he was using Wyscout, essentially just a library of football match videos with data. He was seen attending various European based Korean players’ games, and was also present in person at the UEFA Champions League draw.

If that wasn’t bad enough:

This was news – after any national team squad call up (like every other country) there is always a press conference where the journalists get to ask questions. It seems that Klinsmann decided to go against standard procedure, presumably for his own convenience.

The story goes further – he reportedly had a conflict with coach Michael Kim, who had been a part of Paulo Bento’s coaching staff and frequently acted as a translator as well. His replacement? Cha Du Ri was promoted to a full time coach (he had previously been in an advisory role), and physio Lee Jae Hong (a member of Shin Tae Yong’s staff) joined.

Finally, there were also some eyebrows raised with the national team roster.

At the time of announcement, Cho Gue Sung, Oh Hyeon Gyu, and Hwang Hee Chan were all injured (though they eventually started playing again just in time). Hwang Ui Jo hadn’t played a minute for Nottingham Forest (now Norwich City). Joo Min Kyu on the other hand was left out again, as was K League player of the month Lee Seung Woo. LSW I strongly feel deserved a callup based on his incredible run of goals. Instead we got Lee Soon Min, Moon Seon Min, and Lee Dong Gyeong – I’ve watched a few Ulsan and Jeonbuk games live recently and I wonder what led to their inclusion. Not that they’re bad players per se, but because I didn’t think they were particularly in form or anything (it also seems like Klinsmann just calling up people with NT experience). On the defensive side, I have to question why Kang Sang Woo (Beijing Guoan) was called up.. I haven’t watched any CSL in ages but surely there were more in-form younger K League guys not on the Asian Games squad…

There is also the question of whether an 18 year old reserve player not playing competitive football right now (Kim Ji Soo) deserves a callup. Considering that he is our future for sure, I am not totally against this, but it still does feel a little bit odd.

Personally I was hoping for Kwon Hyeok Kyu to be called up. The latter may not be playing for Celtic right now but he is surely the best defensive midfielder we got and it would be good to see him get some minutes in the national team and start building chemistry next to Hwang In Beom or Hong Hyeon Seok.

I also wonder why Park Ji Soo was dropped. He looked very good in the prior friendlies. It surely can’t be just because he went back to the Chinese League considering that Kang Sang Woo made the list…

After the prior round of friendlies Klinsmann stated that he would use Son Heung Min as a #8. As long as I don’t see that I’m cool. And as long as Seol Yong Woo is one of the starting fullbacks.

Korea is always a little bit weak away from home. I suspect we will probably lose vs Wales, but I fully expect a win vs Roberto Mancini’s Saudi Arabia – a loss or draw there would tank Klinsmann’s reputation even more than it already has.

Public sentiment for Klinsmann is at an all time low right now, and I don’t know how to feel about this whole situation. On one hand, we need results and there’s absolutely no excuse for not winning the Asian Cup. But on the other hand it seems that Klinsmann is not the right man for the job and it’s always good to get back on track sooner rather than later.

What’s clear right now is that Klinsmann is sort of dgafing the KNT job and he doesn’t seem very interested in seeing his team succeed. Even Uli Stielike stayed in Korea, attended K League games, and took us to the Asian Cup finals with a very weak squad.

Speaking of our prior coaches, it also pains me to see Paulo Bento coaching the UAE. Unlike Klinsmann, Bento not only lived in Korea for the duration of his tenure but enjoyed his time there and reportedly wanted to stay. The players loved him too. But as the story goes the KFA was not willing to give him a 4 year contract but instead called for a 2+2 or 1+3 pending performance. Truly sad how the KFA always takes several steps back for each step forward.

In this interview, he states that he wanted to continue his project with Korea but ran into issues with the KFA. We never should have let him go.

We will conclude this post with a few thoughts on recent transfers:

Bae Jun Ho to Stoke City: wasn’t expecting this at all when it was announced, but in interviews Bae stated that Stoke City was the team that wanted him the most and had a vision for him. He also alluded to how the way they play these days is nothing like their stereotype (wet rainy day in Stoke, long balls to a target man, etc). BJH actually made his debut already, just days after signing, and looked really good on his debut. The team didn’t play very well at all, but BJH looked sharp and showed that 1) he can easily handle the physicality of the Championship and 2) he is going to be getting starting minutes very soon. His debut gave me Lee Chung Yong vibes – not because he was on prime LCY’s level of course, but because he is likely going to make an instant impact on his debut season. Reportedly, Torino in Serie A also put in an offer but he chose Stoke.

Lee Han Beom to Midtjylland: also wasn’t expecting this as it was reported that Schalke were the frontrunners but this is a good move and linking up with Cho Gue Sung will definitely help. We are truly blessed in the CB position right now with KMJ, Kim Ji Soo, and Lee Han Beom.

Hwang In Beom to Red Star Belgrade: now what happened here? First there was the legal dispute over the contract. Hwang was under the impression he had a buyout clause, but Olympiacos was not having it and the two sides were about to go to court. We were hearing about Bundesliga sides and over the last few weeks, Atalanta. Then it was revealed that Olympiacos’ asking price of 10 mil was too high. But then it turns out that he goes to Belgrade for 5.5 mil? Hwang In Beom either has an AWFUL agency, or his transfer luck is just terrible. How did he go from Canada to Russia to Greece now to Serbia??? OK I guess he gets to play Champions League football (in a group with Man City and RB Leipzig) but this man belongs in a top European league. Fortunately though, it is reported that he secured a buyout clause in the region of 7-7.5 mil.

About Jinseok 259 Articles
Diehard Korean football fan.


  1. Reminds me of the parable of the scorpion and the frog. I have to believe that KFA or Cha Bum-kun or his son Cha Du-ri, knew who he is as did the rest of the world. Also, is Cha Du-ri being promoted on merit or due to cronyism?

    A lot can happen from now until World Cup, and I’m guessing the number of Europe based Korean players will change and he’ll start throwing the players under the bus if they aren’t able to compete in Europe the same way he did with the Americans. National teams are who they are and if the pool of talent happens to ply their trade in the K-League then he better be able to adapt to it (which he won’t and will tell the world that he’s the mad genius and the players aren’t capable of bending to his will). SMH. It’s like a script that everyone could have written themselves. I knew for a fact that this is what we’re getting from this grifter with his annoying shiesty smirk. I hope the media, pundits, and influencers can convince the KFA to get rid of him sooner than later. Guessing we’re going to have to see Korea flop in the Asian Cup for the KFA to act.

  2. Thanks for the writeup as always Jinseok.
    Just curious, what is up with Kim Moon Hwan? He was a solid player in last year’s World Cup. No call up?

  3. I watched the match and couldn’t wait for the Tavern’s assessment, so I want to go ahead and give my two cents: Korea played against a Welsh squad that “didn’t want to play” and gave below minimum effort even for a friendly due to their upcoming qualifying match next Monday. Yet Korea, under Klinsmann played the most unimaginative, uncreative, uninspired football since Uli Stielike’s era. Sure Korea looked capable but that was against a Welsh side that sat back and had zero intentions of making the friendly anything more than a full 11v11 practice. From the body language on the players, it didn’t seem like they cared that Klinsmann is still winless. Klinsmann doesn’t seem like he cares that he’s winless. Which leads me to believe that Klinsmann is under zero pressure to produce any type of results or show any type of improvement until the Asia Cup. At least the US players had some early success and played with hopeful enthusiasm during the beginning of Klinsmann’s tenure until the sawdust in the gas tank wore off.

    On a possible positive note, the players and Klinsmann seemed jovial and lighthearted. I didn’t observe that from the team under Bento until the World Cup. Bento always seemed to have a scowl and the players looked brow-beaten during his time but it seemed to pay off.

  4. klinsman should be sacked ASAP. I don’t know what KFA was thinking when they chose him as the next manager. Against wales, there were big gaps in the midfield.

  5. I can actually understand how he has been able to get away with everything. I just watched an interview with him from last week. He’s an incredibly charming guy and knows how to talk to people. I can totally see him convincing the KFA with words like “I’ve won the World Cup. What have you done?” And them just bowing to his every move. Not saying what he is doing is right, but I think it’s important to keep things in perspective. He openly admits that he doesn’t care about winning any friendlies, and his goal right now is to win the Asian Cup. He was hired early on to prep for the Asian Cup.

    I think we have to see it through. It could be an utter disaster, but… I don’t think our team in January pre-Klinsmann was gonna win the Asian Cup. A hiring scramble now isn’t gonna solve our problems.

    You know as well as I do that if a Klinsmann-coached Korea beats Japan in the Asian Cup, all will be forgiven instantly and he will be hailed a national hero.

    I say this as someone who’s not a fan of the guy. But the KFA, as usual, put us in this situation. They are the common factor of all our problems the past 15 years.

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