Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Korea Closing In On New Man

Korea Closing In On New Man.
It has become an almost annual event, one which is loved by journalists all over South Korea- trying to guess the identity of the next national team coach.

No official candidates have been announced by the Korean Football Association (KFA) as yet. The task of hiring and firing belongs to the body's Technical Committee. It has been busy with many meetings over the last month.

Since the resignation of Pim Verbeek at the end of the 2007 Asian Cup in July, the ten men on the committee have been fairly casual about getting a new man in place but pressure is mounting. The start of qualification for the 2010 World Cup starts in February and the next coach should be firmly settled in place by then.

One thing is for sure, he will be foreign. That issue was settled fairly quickly despite a debate of some ferocity that raged for a time in soccer circles. Much of the media wanted an import while, perhaps unsurprisingly, Korean coaches argued that it was time for a Korean coach to be given the job.

The local leaders lost and, like the rest of us, will have to wait to find out the identity of the next foreigner – a sixth in as many years. Some writers can’t wait that long, preferring to keep close tabs on KFA house, its fax machines, printers, copiers and even garbage in attempts to reveal the identity.

Supposed contenders range from former Liverpool, Lyon and France boss Gerard Houllier, the English ex-coach of Ireland Mick McCarthy and the current coach of Denmark Morten Olsen.

Houllier is perhaps top of the list and is available – kind of. Since resigning after leading Lyon to the French title last season, the 60 year-old has been taking a break. Despite recently becoming a technical advisor to the French Football Association, Houllier has let it become known that he is interested in the right national team job.

It remains to be seen if South Korea fits the bill. Houllier has close ties with Football Federation Australia, also looking for a new coach. Ireland is also known to be ready to talk.

Competition to find the right person is fierce. Three of Korea’s Asian rivals are also on the lookout. Iran is ready to spend big and was last week turned down by ex-Brazil boss Vanderlei Luxemburgo and the rather less exotic former Manchester City and Sunderland coach Peter Reid. As well as Australia, Japan is in the market after coach Ivica Osim suffered a serious stroke recently.

People like Houllier come at a price but money is not a problem for the KFA. The body signed a $54 million deal with Nike last month and knows that any failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup would financially far outweigh any savings made my appointing a mediocre man at this stage.

Not only fortune but fate has smiled on South Korea in the form of a favourable draw for the third round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup on Sunday. Finishing in the top two of a group containing North Korea, Jordan and Turkmenistan is well within the team’s capabilities and it will be a major shock if South Korea doesn’t progress to the final round.

By then, the new guy should have really found his feet we just have to wait and see the rest of him.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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