South Korea coach Juergen Klinsmann was highly impressed with the creativity of Paris St Germain playmaker Lee Kang-in as his side opened their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 5-0 win over Singapore on Thursday.
Faced with a team featuring English Premier League standouts Son Heung-in and Hwang Hee-chan as well as Lee, Singapore kept 10 men behind the ball for much of the Asian qualifying Group C contest in Seoul.
“When you play teams that play against you very defensively, you need creativity,” Klinsmann told reporters, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
“You need players that can cross the balls in, you need runs into the box, you need fast passing, high tempo and getting balls if possible behind the backline if there’s a little bit of space.
“Kang-in can play these balls. He can score himself. The growth of Kang-in over the last six months is a joy for us as coaches.”
Lee did get on the scoresheet late in the game to put a gloss on the scoreline after earlier goals from Cho Gue-sung, Hwang and Son, as well as a Hwang Ui-jo penalty.
Former Germany striker and coach Klinsmann was also impressed with the way Lee tracked back to help out his team defensively.
“We coaches try to teach him that it always goes both ways, Luis Enrique at Paris Saint Germain does the same thing,” the World Cup winner added.
“It’s fantastic for Korean football and the national team to have a player like him to go to a completely new level.”
Son found his own way to get past the massed Singaporean defence with a delightful curling, left-footed shot from outside the box.
The South Korean captain needed treatment after a nasty knock to his right knee late in the second half but played out the game and was quick to reassure worried Tottenham Hotspur fans.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I am not the only one hurting out there. Everyone plays with some bumps and bruises.”
South Korea, looking to qualify for an 11th straight edition of the World Cup finals, take on China in Shenzhen in their second qualifier on Tuesday.