The national soccer team’s quest for an 11th consecutive FIFA World Cup qualification got off to a flying start at the 2026 North American Games with eight goals in two games and a clean sheet.

The national team, led by Jürgen Klinsmann (GER), defeated China 3-0 in the second Group C match of the 2026 North American Football Confederations Cup Asia Second Qualifying Round at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center in Guangdong, China, on June 21, thanks to two goals and an assist from ‘Captain’ Son Heung-min (Tottenham).

Klinsmann’s men, who won their first match 5-0 against Singapore at the Seoul World Cup Stadium five days earlier, have cruised through their two matches to open the North American qualifiers.

The national team, which had been shaky in its first five matches under Klinsmann (three draws and two losses) since the start of his reign in March, rebounded with five straight wins without conceding a goal, starting with a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in the second game of the A-match period in September.

Klinsmann sought to “stabilize” the squad by fielding a nearly identical roster to the October A-Match, which was the team’s final game of the year and its final test before qualifying for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in January/February next year.

The only changes were the omission of defender Kim Joo-sung (Seoul) and the selection of Song Bum-geun (Shonan Belmare) instead of Kim Jun-hong (Gimcheon) for the goalkeeping spot, as the total number of players was reduced from 24 in October to 23 this month.

Through two games this month, the team’s starting lineup has remained largely unchanged, suggesting that the core of the squad for the Asian Cup is virtually set.

In both the Singapore game and today’s match against China, South Korea’s “big league” attacking trio of Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain), and Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton) started, with Cho Kyu-sung (Mittwillan) given the nod in the striker’s spot.

Hwang In-beom (Zvezda) started in midfield and Lee Ki-je (Suwon), Kim Min-jae (Munich), and Jung Seung-hyun (Ulsan) started in defense for the second consecutive game.

Hwang’s partner changed from Lee Jae-sung (Mainz) to Park Yong-woo (Al Ain), and the fullback spot changed from Seol Young-woo to Kim Tae-hwan (Ulsan).

Against Singapore, Son Heung-min, Cho Kyu-sung, Hwang Hee-chan, Lee Kang-in, and Hwang Eui-jo (Norwich City) were all ‘must-haves’ for the national team, and the Europeans cruised to a 5-0 victory, with Son Heung-min scoring two goals and adding an assist.

Regardless of their objective strength, the trip to China was considered one of the toughest of the qualifiers due to the opposition’s rough play and one-sided crowd support, but the trio of Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan, and Kang In were able to get through it without too much trouble.

Hwang Hee-chan’s lively flanking move early in the match resulted in a penalty kick, which Son Heung-min converted in the 11th minute, while his second goal in the 45th minute came from a Lee Kang-in corner kick.

In the 42nd minute, a sharp free kick from Son Heung-min led to a header from Jung Seung-hyun, confirming the team’s set-piece rhythm. 파워볼

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