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Shin Tae-yong and Kim Pan-gon's Asian Cup Challenge.

An opportunity to show another competitive edge in Korean soccer

In the year of Gapjin, the Korean soccer team hopes to take another leap forward. Following its advance to the round of 16 teams at the 2022 Qatar World Cup and the gold medal at the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games, the team will seek to win the title for the first time in 64 years at the Asian Cup, which will open in Qatar in January this year. The Korean national soccer team, led by German coach Jürgen Klinsmann, will take the lead with the first group E match against Bahrain on Saturday.

In particular, there are other opportunities to prove Korean soccer's competitiveness in addition to the achievements of the "Clinsman Lake" in the upcoming Asian Cup. The stars are Kim Pan-gon (55), who leads Malaysia, which ranks 130th in the FIFA rankings, and Shin Tae-yong (54), the Indonesian coach who ranks 146th.

Since taking the helm of Malaysia from 2022, Kim has recorded 18 wins, four draws and five losses in 27 games. This is the highest winning percentage among the coaches who have led Malaysia in more than 10 games. Kim, who is also receiving explosive support in Malaysia, is aiming to advance to the final qualifying round by defeating Kyrgyzstan (4-3 win) and Taiwan (1-0 win) in the second Asian qualifying round for the 2026 North-China-US World Cup in November last year.

Coincidentally, Kim will face his motherland at the Asian Cup. It will be his third Group E match at the Al-Zanub Stadium on Saturday. However, Kim said, "I want to focus more on the meaning of the Asian Cup than the match against Korea. It is a big opportunity for Malaysia to compete with top Asian teams. I will use it as an opportunity to grow up by just facing strong players."

Shin is also facing challenges. Having led Indonesia since 2020, Shin has elevated his team to the dominant position in Southeast Asia with 20 wins, 10 draws and 8 losses in 38 matches. Having led Indonesia to the Asian Cup finals for the first time since 2007, Shin is already highly anticipated by Indonesia. In Group D of the tournament, Shin will face Iraq (on April 15), Vietnam (on April 19) and Japan (on April 24).

Korean coaches' performances and challenges for the Asian Cup provide an opportunity to demonstrate Korean soccer's competitiveness. While the national team's performance in major competitions and overseas players' performances have enhanced the international competitiveness of Korean soccer, the Korean leaders' strong performance shows another aspect of Korean soccer's development.
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Sunday, January 14, 2024
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