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Klinsmann sacked as South Korea coach after less than a year

Jurgen Klinsmann was sacked as South Korea coach Friday following defeat to Jordan in the semi-finals of the Asian Cup and revelations about a bust-up between star players.

The 59-year-old German former striker, a World Cup winner as a player, was in the post for just under a year.

“The KFA has decided to change the national head coach following a comprehensive review,” Korea Football Association president Chung Mong-gyu said.

“Klinsmann has failed to display managerial capability and leadership expected of a national head coach in areas ranging from tactics, personnel management to work attitude and others required to bring about competitiveness to the team.

“Klinsmann’s attitude and competitiveness as head coach has fallen short of people’s expectations and it was agreed that this would not be improved going forward, so we have decided to change leadership ahead of 2026 World Cup qualifying games.”

Klinsmann said it had been “an incredible journey” and thanked his players in a post on social media, just before the axe fell.

With fans and South Korean media demanding Klinsmann’s dismissal, the KFA’s national team committee had on Thursday said that “a change of leadership is necessary”.

The South Korean team have been in the eye of a storm.

On Wednesday came revelations about a fracas between players that left Son Heung-min with an injured finger on the eve of the 2-0 loss to Jordan in the last four in Qatar.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in subsequently issued an apology after Yonhap news agency said the 22-year-old had tried to punch skipper and Tottenham star Son.

Lee’s representatives have denied there was a punch.

The conflict was reportedly triggered by younger players—including Lee—rushing through their dinner so they could leave early and play table tennis.

This angered some of the older players, including Son, who wanted to honour longstanding tradition that the pre-game dinner be a team bonding experience, triggering the brawl.

Lee and Son both played in the Jordan loss, the latter with two of his fingers strapped together.

Star brawl –

The incident fuelled calls for Klinsmann to be sacked, with some saying it was more evidence of his weak management.

KFA president Chung said that the altercation between the star players had “occurred after a run of very difficult games physically and emotionally amid more than a month-long group training”.

But even so, the KFA felt “this incident reflects a lot to us for areas to pay attention to when it comes to managing a national team going forward”. 

“The KFA will right away embark on finding the next head coach for the upcoming 2026 World Cup qualifiers.”

Yonhap previously reported, citing unnamed sources, that the KFA would consider a temporary appointment for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Thailand if Klinsmann were to be sacked.

Klinsmann, who has never won over South Korean fans or media, had promised to deliver the country’s first Asian title in 64 years. 

He had previously refused to resign despite fierce pressure and had insisted he would remain living in the United States, despite demands from South Korean fans and media for him to move.

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