‘Shaolin Soccer’ meets Klinsmann, injury prevention is a first-half goal firework

After kicking off their campaign for the 2026 North America Cup at home, the South Korean men’s national soccer team, the Klinsmanns, are now looking for another cool victory on the road.

They’ll face a team that has been dubbed “Shaolin soccer” for its rough-and-tumble style of play, and they’ll play a fiery brand of “attacking soccer.

Jürgen Klinsmann’s men will face China at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center in Guangdong, China, at 9 p.m. on June 21 in the second Group C match of the FIFA Confederations Cup North America 2026 Asian Qualifiers.

South Korea got off to a crisp start with a 5-0 victory over Singapore in their first match at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on April 16. However, there was a worrying aspect. There was a moment of tension midway through the second half when captain Son Heung-min (Tottenham) was kicked in the back of the knee by an opponent and went to the ground in pain. He got up but limped for a while, raising injury concerns. The Chinese are known for playing a much rougher style of soccer than Singapore. It’s not uncommon for opposing players to go down with injuries. Hwang Sun-hong’s U-24 team suffered injuries to key players such as Uhm Won-sang (Ulsan) and Ko Young-joon (Pohang) in an exhibition match in China last June. In the match between Thailand and China on June 16 at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, China played rough soccer, receiving four cautions.

South Korea’s key players, Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton), Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain), and Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich), have been in peak form this season and are playing key roles for their respective teams. After the China game, the team will return to play a tough league schedule again, and any injuries could put the brakes on their momentum.

The best South Korea can hope to do against China’s tough soccer is to put them away early. If the game is decided early, China’s resolve will be broken quickly.

In that regard, it’s encouraging that the national team’s offense has been on fire lately. In their last three games, South Korea have been in perfect form, scoring 15 goals and not conceding a single one. While the opposition hasn’t been the strongest, the fact that they’ve been able to pound away against tightly-defended teams like Vietnam and Singapore and eventually score multiple goals can be considered an achievement. Our attacking resources, including Son Heung-min, Lee Kang-in, Cho Kyu-sung (Meatwillan), Hwang Hee-chan, and Hwang Eui-jo (Norwich), who scored against Singapore, are in top form. We are ready to attack at our own pace and with different attacking routes. The team will be looking to bounce back from a 0-1 loss to China in the final qualifier for the 2017 World Cup in Russia.

“We try to be rough when we play big teams,” Son Heung-min told reporters after the Singapore match. When Asian teams play against us, they will try to play rough,” he said. “Making them angry and frustrated can be their tactic. We just have to play our game and not get caught up in it.”


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