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Jurgen Klinsmann in trouble after seven months and no wins with South Korea

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South Korea face Saudi Arabia in a friendly at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park on Tuesday, with Jurgen Klinsmann under severe pressure after a wretched start as coach.

The German legend was appointed only in February, but his South Korea side have failed to win in the five games since, losing twice and drawing thrice.

The latest disappointment was a drab 0-0 stalemate away at an equally off-colour Wales last week, after which skipper Son Heung-min came to the defence of the 59-year-old Klinsmann.

“I understand where fans come from, as someone who’s been on the national team for a long time. I am not saying the coach is always right, but I also don’t think fans are always right either,” the Tottenham Hotspur forward said in Cardiff.

“Many different players have been getting opportunities. In some ways, the coach is trying to identify new players, instead of trying to put up results right away. I am sure he knows what he’s doing.”

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South Korea, ranked 28th in the world, reached the last 16 of the Qatar World Cup before being outclassed 4-1 by Brazil, after which coach Paulo Bento said he would not stay on.

The Korea Football Association launched a protracted search for his successor before settling on Klinsmann, a World Cup winner as a player but whose coaching career has never hit the same heights.

Many South Korean fans were underwhelmed by the appointment, and the performances since have only added to those misgivings.

Klinsmann, whose previous coaching job was a short stint with Hertha Berlin more than three years ago, started with a 2-2 home draw with Colombia, before home defeats by Uruguay and Peru.

Then came a 1-1 home draw with El Salvador, but the result and listless performance in the goal-less stalemate with Wales have piled the pressure on the former United States coach.

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It does not help that the Koreans’ fierce rivals Japan are in fine form, beating four-time world champions Germany 4-1 on Saturday.

Despite boasting Asia’s finest attacker in the talisman Son, South Korea conjured up just one shot on target against the 35th-ranked Welsh. They have scored four times in five matches under Klinsmann, who was a prolific striker in his pomp.

However, it is what the former Germany skipper and coach is doing off the pitch that has equally angered fans.

Supporters and media accuse him of reneging on a pledge to move to the country, saying he spends more time at home in California than in South Korea.

Klinsmann’s media duties away from the Korean job have also been touted by critics as more evidence that he is not sufficiently committed to the job.

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Choi Dong-ho, a commentator and director of the Centre for Sports Culture research group, said Klinsmann appeared “negligent”.

“Considering his limited familiarity with Korean players, he should at least be watching all K League games in person rather than being ‘briefed’ by other coaches while he stays abroad,” said Choi.

The German, however, sees things differently.

“The only way for me to improve this team and this programme is I come to Europe say hello and I talk to people all day long,” he said in an interview released by football YouTube channel Dalsu Live on Monday.

“When I come to Korea, in and out, in and out, that is the only way I can improve. If not, it’s better somebody else. No problem.”

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Failure to beat Saudi Arabia, who are ranked 54th in the world, would leave Klinsmann clinging to his job after less than seven months in charge.

“Klinsmann’s seeming lack of urgency in light of poor performances hasn’t sat well with South Korean fans, many of whom have already begun calling for the German tactician’s head,” Yonhap news agency said on Monday.

Klinsmann insists that the team are in transition and his focus is on the Asian Cup in Qatar in January and February 2024.

“How prepared are they mentally for a big tournament? Can they deal with all the pressure, all the expectations and all those different elements?” Klinsmann said after the Wales draw.

“It’s a growing process. And I’m pleased overall with what the players showed, and we’ll keep growing game by game.”

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-AFP

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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International Football

Former Italy international Roberto Baggio robbed at gunpoint

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint at his home in northern Italy while watching his country’s match against Spain in the Euro 2024 tournament on Thursday, local police said.

Burglars broke into Baggio’s house near Vicenza, hit him on the head with a gun butt and locked him and his family in a room while they stole jewellery, watches and cash, daily Il Corriere della Sera reported. It said he suffered a deep wound.

“Luckily, the violence I suffered only resulted in a few stitches, bruises and a lot of fear. Now it is to overcome the fear,” Baggio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

Baggio, 57, played for clubs including Juventus (JUVE.MI), opens new tab, AC Milan and Inter Milan. He also played 56 times for Italy, scoring 27 goals, and is widely seen as one of his country’s all-time greats.

After the robbery, Baggio, widely known as the “divine ponytail”, was treated at a local hospital where he received stitches for the head wound, Italian media reported.

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Italy lost to Spain 1-0 on Thursday and now must avoid defeat by Croatia to guarantee progression in the tournament.

-Reuters

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International Football

New twist in Cameroon football coach crisis

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

The coaching crisis in Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions has taken a new dimension as the football federation, FECAFOOT, led by former international, Samuel Eto’o goes in direct confrontation with the coaching crew appointed by the sports ministry which also picks the bills.

  According to a Cameroon official who will not like to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, the claims and counter claims of both the sports ministry and the FECAFOOT led by Eto’o had been heard and decided by the conciliation and arbitration chamber of the Cameroonian national Olympic committee, which is a court in charge of sports cases in Cameroon.

  “What is in contention is not the position of the Belgian coach, Marcc Brys, but that of the Cameroonian assistants attached to him.”

  The source explained to Sports Village Square that although the employment of Brys by the sports ministry was initially contested by Eto’o, the former player has come to accept the situation.

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  “In Cameroon, there is always a techenical crew of nine to 11. The foreign coach is allowed to bring in two foreign assistants, while the others are always Cameroonians.

  In this case, the sports ministry approved the list of two foreign assistants by Brys while also announcing another set of local assistants that included former international, François Omam-Biyik, one of the stars of Italia ‘90  and the scorer of the goal that gave Cameroon a 1-0 win over a Diego Maradona-inspired  Argentina.

  “That is where the problem is. FECAFOOT also submitted a list of technical crew that included Brys and his two foreign assistants but dropped the names of the local assistants with new ones.”

  In essence, there are two lists with both having three names as same, but differ on the rest.

 According to the source, the list submitted by the sports ministry was upheld by the tribunal which threw aside that of FECAFOOT.

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  In another twist, FIFA has already removed the name of Marc Brys from the profile of Cameroon on its website. Only the name of national women’s coach, Jean-Baptiste Bisseck is listed.

The removal of Brys’ name is happening a second time as it was first removed at the end of last month before being reinstated.

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Cameroon’s appointment of Brys as manager suspended by sports tribunal

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Marc Brys

Cameroon’s appointment of Belgian Marc Brys as head coach was suspended by the country’s top sports tribunal on Tuesday following the petition of an amateur football club.

The country’s sports ministry stirred controversy last month when it named 61-year-old Brys as manager of the Indomitable Lions without consulting the football federation (FECAFOOT).

The move sparked a dispute between the sports ministry and FECAFOOT, which said the government had made a unilateral decision.

In response, it asked its president Samuel Eto’o to propose a national coach and other management staff for the national side within 72 hours, deepening its standoff with the sports ministry.

Eto’o kept Brys as head coach but named different assistants, technical, medical and administrative staff.

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An amateur club, meanwhile, took the matter to the Arbitration and Conciliation Chamber of the Cameroon National Olympic and Sports Committee.

In a provisional ruling on Tuesday, the court suspended the FECAFOOT appointments while it fully examined the matter. Concerned parties have 24 hours to appeal.

FECAFOOT in response said it “reserves the right to refer these decisions to FIFA, as they hinder the preparation process for the forthcoming sport events.

“The Emergency Committee of FECAFOOT will meet immediately to take appropriate measures,” it said in a statement.

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has strict rules against government interference in national federations and has frequently banned countries when governments get involved in federation affairs.

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The president of the Cameroon Association of Amateur Football Clubs, Balla Ongolo Henri, had previously said Eto’o’s appointments would damage Cameroon’s image and disrupt preparations for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers next June.

Brys, 61, penned a contract on May 8 as head coach of the Indomitable Lions following the dismissal of Rigobert Song in February. FECAFOOT did not attend the signing ceremony.

The sports ministry says it has acted in accordance with national and international regulations.

Reuters

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