Klinsmann’s men face Malaysia with multiple challenges.
The South Korean national football team, led by Jürgen Klinsmann, will face Malaysia in the third match of their 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup Group E qualifying campaign at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, on June 25 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Klinsmann’s men earned a 3-1 victory over Bahrain in the first leg. Hwang In-beom’s opener and a manic, multi-goal performance from Lee Kang-in ended a promising start.
They then faced Jordan. After a quiet first leg, Son Heung-min scored his first goal of the Asian Cup 2023 when he converted a penalty kick against Jordan.
South Korea took the lead against Jordan through Son Heung-min’s first goal of the tournament, but were unable to capitalize. Park Yong-woo gave up an own goal and then conceded another.
Klinsmann kept pushing, and in the last minute of the game, Hwang In-beom pulled an own goal from Jordan to level the score at 2-2. It was a game that looked like a winner. However, a sloppy performance resulted in a draw and a point.
Klinsmann’s men now face Malaysia, who have already been eliminated from the round of 16. There are a lot of things to check. First, the final ranking will be determined. The fate of the bracket is at stake.
If South Korea wins against Malaysia, they will have seven points. If Jordan defeats Bahrain, they will have the same number of points.
The Asian Cup is a goal difference tournament, which means that multiple points are needed to finish first in the group. If Jordan draws or loses to Bahrain, South Korea will finish first and advance to the Round of 16. If they draw with Malaysia, they will finish second.
While it’s unlikely, South Korea could fall as low as third if they lose to Malaysia and Bahrain wins against Jordan.
If South Korea advances to the round of 16 as the group’s top seed, they will likely face Japan in the round of 16, Iran in the quarterfinals, and Qatar in the semifinals.
Conversely, if they finish second, they will likely face Saudi Arabia or Thailand in the round of 16, followed by Australia in the quarterfinals and Iraq in the semifinals.
The matchup with Malaysia is a great opportunity for Klinsmann to test and improve the performance of his key players.
Hwang Hee-chan and Kim Jin-soo, who are responsible for Klinsmann’s flank attack and defense, have been out of action since arriving in Qatar for the Asian Cup and have focused on their recovery.
Without Hwang Hee-chan and Kim Jin-soo, the team’s flanking attack and defense were considered to be somewhat weak. In particular, Kim Jin-soo’s return is urgently needed as Lee Ki-jae has been criticized for his subpar performance.
Hwang Hee-chan’s return could give Klinsmann’s offense more width. The team will have more options, such as deploying Son Heung-min up front and utilizing Lee Jae-sung as a second striker.
According to Australian outlet Sporting News, “South Korea can generate tons of attacking chances against the bottom of the group. Especially if Hwang Hee-chan returns. Being back on the pitch is a great opportunity for him to get back into form ahead of the big game.”
British outlet Sport Kida also highlighted Hwang’s potential return, calling it “great news for South Korea.”
Cho Kyu-sung’s silence is also something Klinsmann will need to address in the final group game against Malaysia.
Cho emerged as a hero at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He took advantage of Hwang Eui-jo’s absence and scored a multi-goal performance with his head in the second group game against Ghana, drawing attention to South Korea’s next great striker.
However, his presence at the Asian Cup has been lacking. For starters, his most important toe has been silent.
Cho Kyu-sung has been criticized for his lackluster performance as a striker, missing crucial chances.
If Klinsmann’s men advance to the knockout rounds, Cho Kyu-sung’s role as a goal scorer will become even more important. The team is desperate to turn things around against Malaysia, who have already received their report card.
Malaysia are out of the group stage, but they’re not about to take it easy.
“We are facing Korea in a situation where our motivation could be low,” said Malaysia coach Kim Pang Gon. It’s a big challenge. We have nothing to lose and we will learn a lot.”