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    Klinsmann's “zombies” are far from satisfied


    First criticism, then the hero?
    Klinsmann's “zombies” are far from satisfied

    After a difficult start, Klinsmann has formed a successful team from South Korea. In Qatar, they are only two wins away from the Asian Cup title. However, he will have to do without a star from the Bundesliga in the semi-final against Jordan.

    Jürgen Klinsmann laughed, spread confidence in his typical manner and left no room for doubt about the belief in the great triumph. “We have come this far. We want to go further. We are hungry, we are fit,” said the South Korean national coach in sunny Qatar. He has already been responsible for a summer fairytale as a coach. With South Korea, he now wants to write a very special story in the emirate. Almost unnoticed by the German public, the 59-year-old reached the semi-finals of the Asian Cup with the team led by Bayern star Minjae Kim.

    South Korea has been waiting for a triumph at the continental championship for more than half a century, since 1960. On Saturday, the time could come. It already seemed as if Klinsmann's third stint as national coach could end up being the result of a major misunderstanding.

    The former German striker and national coach did not win a single one of his first five games as coach of the Taegeuk Warriors, as the team is known at home. When he asked Welsh captain Aaron Ramsey for his jersey after a 0-0 draw in Wales last September, some fans took offense.

    Klinsmann with old DFB problem

    South Korean media also criticized Klinsmann for spending more time abroad than in South Korea – a problem that the Swabian is already familiar with from his time as national coach. His focus in the USA was also met with incomprehension by some observers at the time. With the success of the German team, which won the hearts of the fans and finished third, the criticism died down in 2006. Almost 18 years later, Klinsmann could also secure a place in the South Korean history books as a football hero.

    “We still have two games ahead of us in which we can hopefully make our country proud. You can see it in the eyes of the players, they want to make their country and their friends proud. They want to bring this trophy home,” said Klinsmann, looking ahead to the semi-final against Jordan tomorrow, Tuesday. (4pm/CET)in which he will have to do without his suspended defensive leader Minjae Kim.

    “A fantastic experience”

    Klinsmann is aware of the great opportunity to satisfy the fans' longing for a title. The motivational artist has lost none of his energy. During the dramatic 2:1 win in the quarter-final against Australia after extra time, he cheered his team on almost non-stop from the sidelines. When the semi-finals were confirmed, he stormed over to his players, including the winning goal scorer Heung-Min Son, and hugged them like good friends, while the fans, who had travelled with their own lead singer, celebrated wildly in the stands at the Al-Janoub Stadium. “I'm enjoying every moment of this tournament,” said Klinsmann, and it's clear that he means it. “It's a fantastic experience.”

    Klinsmann's credo of never giving up and aiming for the greatest goals has been passed on to his team. In four of five games in Qatar, South Korea scored in injury time – once benefiting from an own goal. In the two knockout matches, it was only goals after the 90th minute that saved the team and brought them into extra time. The team has earned a reputation among its fans for being indestructible. “Zombie team” – that's what the supporters now call their national team. “Any name is fine with me,” commented Klinsmann with a smile.

    Superstar and captain Son brushes aside any doubts that his team might be tired after two consecutive 120-minute games. “Fatigue, exhaustion, there can be no excuses,” said the Tottenham Hotspur attacker. “We will keep going to win the cup and bring it home.” If they manage to do that, the fans would probably forgive their coach for any jersey wish.

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