“We don’t have to be afraid if our opponents play rough, as long as we do our thing, we’ll be fine”
Looking to qualify for their 11th consecutive World Cup, Klinsmann’s men play their second match of the Asian qualifiers for the 2026 North and Central American World Cup. The opponent is China, infamously known for its ‘Shaolin football’.
Jürgen Klinsmann’s men’s national team will host China in the second Group C match of the North American Football Confederation 2026 World Cup Asia Second Qualifying Round at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center in Guangdong, China, at 9:00 p.m. ET on June 21.
The team held an off-training session with fans at Mokdong Stadium on the 18th before departing for China on the morning of the 19th. Despite the early morning hours, many fans showed up at Incheon Airport to cheer the team on.
Klinsmann’s momentum is through the roof. Klinsmann’s first five games in charge of the South Korean national team were a cause for concern. However, the team turned things around with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in September’s A match.
They followed that up with a 4-0 win over Tunisia and a 6-0 win over Vietnam in October’s A matches, and a 5-0 win over Singapore in the first leg of their North American World Cup qualifier on Sept. 16. The team’s scoring prowess has completely exploded, with 15 goals in their last three games.
In the past, South Korean soccer has often struggled against the dense defenses of Asian teams in the World Cup qualifying stage. This team is different. They’ve been able to exploit teams that go all-in on defense, and they’ve done it in style. Coach Klinsmann’s “attacking soccer” is starting to pay off.
This time around, China is a team that is objectively outclassed. The Chinese are ranked 79th in the FIFA rankings, 55 places below South Korea at 24th. They also have a much better head-to-head record, with 21 wins, 13 draws, and two losses. It’s even been said that China can’t keep its head above water when facing South Korea.
Most recently, the teams met in the first round of the East Asian Cup last July. Former coach Paulo Bento’s side, despite fielding an all-domestic squad, cruised to a 3-0 victory over a China side that featured a full squad. Hwang Sun-hong’s U-24 team also beat China 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the Asian Games in Hangzhou.
But there’s no reason to be complacent. South Korea was swept by China in World Cup qualifying more than six years ago. Under former coach Uli Stielike, the team lost 0-1 away to China on March 23, 2017, in the sixth match of the final qualifying round for the 2018 World Cup in Russia at Heilongjiang Stadium in Changsha, China. The result was so shocking that it was dubbed the “Changsha Disaster. The loss was a key factor in the sacking of Stielike three months later.
South Korea should really be concerned about something else. China plays a rough style of soccer that has been called “kung fu soccer” and “Shaolin soccer”. In the past, Korean players have suffered fatal injuries against China.
A prime example is the June 4, 1998 friendly against China. Current U-23 national team coach Hwang Sun-hong, a star striker ahead of the World Cup in France, tore his knee ligaments in a killer tackle by the Chinese goalkeeper and was ruled out of the World Cup.
Injuries also occurred during the Asian Games trials in June, including Uhm Won-sang (Ulsan), Cho Young-wook (Seoul), and Ko Young-joon (Pohang). Uhm Won-sang even tore a ligament in his ankle, which almost prevented him from competing in the Hangzhou Asian Games.
The Chinese are sure to bring their fouls against South Korea’s key attackers, including Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain), and Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton). Even in their 2-1 win over Thailand on Sept. 16, they committed 17 fouls and received four yellow cards.
The players, who are well aware of China’s tendencies, plan to stay calm and prepare for that. “We try to be rough when we play strong teams,” said captain Son Heung-min, “and it will be the same when Asian teams play us 아톰카지노.” “Their tactic is to make us angry and frustrated, so we shouldn’t get caught up in that,” he said, adding, “We have nothing to fear. We just have to be good at what we do.”