Coach Jurgen Klinsmann on Monday set his sights on ending South Korea’s Asian Cup title drought in Qatar next year, and told fans to blame him if they fall short.
South Korea are regional powerhouses who reached the 2002 World Cup semi-finals as co-hosts but they have not lifted the continental title since 1960.
Klinsmann has had mixed results since replacing Paulo Bento in February, failing to win in his first five games before racking up three straight victories.
The German legend said he would accept nothing less than the Asian Cup title when the pandemic-delayed tournament kicks off in January.
“We want to go there and win the Asian Cup,” the former Germany and United States boss told reporters.
“Win it and not say ‘maybe the final four’ or ‘maybe, maybe, maybe’. Not maybe — we go there to win it.”
South Korea will start as one of the Asian Cup favourites, with Klinsmann able to call on star names like Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, Bayern Munich’s Kim Min-jae and Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in.
The Taeguk Warriors lost to Australia in the 2015 Asian Cup final and were bundled out by Qatar in the quarter-finals four years later.
Klinsmann said it was “right” that fans expect his team to lift the trophy and accepted that he will be to blame if they don’t.
“We have to aim for the highest goal, and if we don’t reach it then it’s the fault of the coach — no problem,” he said.
“But you have to set the goals, clear goals. This is what we will do.”
South Korea kick off their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign at home to Singapore on Thursday, before travelling to face China five days later.
They have also been drawn with Thailand in one of the toughest groups of the second round of Asian qualifiers.
Klinsmann said he had travelled to Singapore to scout their first opponents and warned his players that they have to “be serious”.
“You have to have a very professional mindset to go through World Cup qualifying, even if you have more slots available,” he said.
“It would be the wrong way to look at it.”
Klinsmann has not had a smooth ride since taking the job, with supporters and media accusing him of reneging on a pledge to move to the country, saying he spends more time at home in California than he does in South Korea.
Klinsmann defended his approach by pointing out that 70 percent of his players were based in Europe, and said he would “not change the way I work”.
“The KFA knew that I would go back and forth, they knew that I look at my work from an international perspective and not from a domestic,” he said.
“I’m not a K-League coach, I’m an international coach.”