Klinsmann’s men rode a multi-goal performance from Son Heung-min (Tottenham) to a three-point victory over China in the biggest test of the 2026 North American Football Confederation World Cup Asia Second Qualifying Round.
Jürgen Klinsmann’s South Korea national football team rode two first-half goals from Son Heung-min to a 3-0 victory over China 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 China’s Guangdong province on Monday.
With their second straight win, following a 5-0 victory over Singapore in the first leg, South Korea remained atop Group C and improved their chances of qualifying for the third round early.
Thailand, who beat Singapore 2-1 earlier in the day, leapfrogged China to finish second in the group (3 points, 0 goals scored), while China dropped to third (3 points, -1 goals scored).
South Korea leads the all-time series against China 22-13-2, including a recent four-game winning streak. China hasn’t been able to shake off the “gonghan syndrome.
China is ranked 79th by Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), 55 spots below South Korea (24th).
Klinsmann’s men have won five straight matches for Pajuk, dating back to an exhibition match against Saudi Arabia in September.
In those five games, Klinsmann’s side scored 19 goals and conceded none.
Against China, the toughest opponent in the second round of qualifiers, and one that plays very roughly, it is no small feat to win away from home without any serious injuries.
During the match, Chinese fans were caught on camera shooting laser lights at Korean players’ eyes on several occasions.
With their 2023 A-match schedule now complete, the team will reconvene in early January to begin preparations for the 2024 Asian Cup in Qatar, which kicks off on January 12.
Klinsmann handed South Korea’s “big league” attacking trio of Son Heung-min, Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain) and Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton) another start after their last match against Singapore.
Striker Cho Kyu-sung (Meatwillan) led the way, with Hwang Hee-chan, Hwang In-beom (Zvezda), and Lee Kang-in supporting him in the second line from the left.
Son Heung-min moved freely between the front line and the second line.
Park Yong-woo (Al Ain) played as a defensive midfielder, and the back line was composed of Lee Ki-je (Suwon), Kim Min-jae (Munich), Jung Seung-hyun, and Kim Tae-hwan (Ulsan) from the left.
Kim Seung-kyu (Al-Shabaab) wore the goalkeeping gloves.
South Korea dominated the game against China. They held a 68%-32% advantage in ball possession, 15-4 in shots, and 8-0 in shots on goal.
South Korea took the lead in the 11th minute on a penalty kick by Son Heung-min.
Earlier, China defender Zhu Tianze fouled Hwang Hee-chan in the penalty area, earning Korea a penalty kick.
Hwang Hee-chan dived for the ball and drew a foul after Cho Kyu-sung’s shot was blocked by Zhu Tian-je and a scramble ensued between them and the goalkeeper.
Still in control of the game, South Korea had a golden opportunity to add to their lead in the 24th minute.
After Son Heung-min’s left-footed shot from the penalty spot was saved by the goalkeeper, Hwang Hee-chan, who had been lurking in the box, was able to get a second shot on goal, only to be denied again by the keeper.
Son Heung-min was also responsible for the second goal in the 45th minute.
Lee Kang-in sent in a corner kick from the right, which Son Heung-min headed into the net at the near post.
This is the first time that Son Heung-min, the ‘ace’ of Korean soccer, has scored an A-Match goal with the help of Lee Kang-in, the ‘next ace’.
It was Lee’s fourth consecutive A-Match offensive point and Son’s 41st A-Match goal.
In the eighth minute of the second half, Lee Kang-in almost scored his fourth goal in a row when he beat the goalkeeper, but the ball was cleared off the line by Joo Cheon-jae just before it crossed the line.
South Korea, who had steadied the ship in the second half, made a change in the 27th minute to bring on Seol Young-woo (Ulsan), Lee Jae-sung (Mainz), and Hwang Eui-jo (Norwich City) for Kim Tae-hwan, Hwang Hee-chan, and Cho Kyu-sung.
In the 38th minute, Lee Kang-in was withdrawn and Jung Woo-young (Stuttgart) entered the field.
South Korea sealed the win in the 42nd minute as China pushed hard for an equalizer, with Son Heung-min heading home a diagonal free-kick cross from the right by Jung Seung-hyun. 토토