This has been one crazy summer and most in Korean football are glad to see the back of it. The events of the World Cup are well-known. What comes next remains to be seen.
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the KFA reluctantly accepted the resignation of Hong Myung-bo in
early July, they had no idea as to the identity of his replacement.
Indeed, a number of senior figures in the organisation also resigned
following the World Cup failure including vice-president Huh Jung-moo
and chairman of the technical committee Hwangbo Kwan. His successor
is Lee Yong-soo, who held the post back in 2002. Lee and the new
committee wanted a European with World Cup experience, club
experience and experience in developing young players as well as
decent English skills.
Bert Van Marwijk was the name on top of the list. Lee went to the
Netherlands to talk to the man who led the Oranje to the final of the
2010 World Cup but the deal broke down mainly due to the Dutchman's
desire to spend much of his time in Europe. The KFA wanted someone
willing to get involved at all levels of the country's football
Juventus coach Ciro Ferrara was also high on the list but in the end,
the successful candidate was something of a surprise. Uli Stielike
was a fantastic midfielder for Real Madrid and West Germany in the
seventies and eighties yet his coaching career is not quite as
impressive. Unremarkable national team spells with Switzerland in the
late eighties and the Ivory Coast in the previous decade are peppered
by short-lived club terms, the most recent of which came in the
volatile coaching region of West Asia. Years spent with German youth
teams at the turn of the century appealed to the KFA and basically
being German helped.
was not especially positive or negative, though there is some relief
that the post has been filled with the Asian Cup just four months
away. Friendlies in October and November will give him a little time,
though not much, to prepare for Australia. His bosses are looking
longer-term but a bad start will, obviously, make it tough for a man
whose record does not excite. Fans seem open-minded but there is not
much credit in the bank.
in the K-League
Steelers and Jeonbuk Motors have been here before and know well what
it takes to win the K-League title. That doesn't mean they won't be
frustrated at their recent slips in form. The only positive is that
the two defeats in the last three that Jeonbuk have suffered and the
dropping of eight points from the last four games from Pohang have
not been capitalised on by rivals such as Suwon Bluewings.
Lee Dong-gook was on the scoresheet once again and remains
on the top of the K-League goalscoring charts, not bad for a 35
year-old. Such form earned him a recall to the national team and the
Lion King scored two fine goals in a very welcome 3-1 win over
Venezuela on September 5.
the bottom, Gyeongnam FC are propping up the other 11 and despite not
playing that badly of late have just not been getting the results
that they have deserved. Two-time Asian champs and seven-time
domestic winners Seongnam are starting to climb free of trouble,
helped the return of legendary coach Kim Hak-beom. If he can perform
anything like the same magic as the middle part of last decade, fans
in the satellite city are in for a happier time.
only team in excellent form are FC Seoul. The 2012 champions started
the season so badly that their recent run is not going to end in a
title challenge but it should at least ensure a top-half finish.
Sixteen points from the last eighteen has taken some pressure off
coach Choi Yong-soo though whether this season is regarded as a
success will depend on what happens in a different theatre.
That is one of the slogans that can be seen around
the big stadium in the capital city. Seoul reached the final of the
Asian Champions League in 2013, losing on away goals to Guangzhou
Evergrande. The Koreans are now one game (if two legs) away from a
repeat performance after seeing off Pohang in a turgid quarter-final
that ended goalless after 210 minutes of football. The Steelers
failed to score a single spot-kick and Choi Yong-soo's men sneaked
Sydney Wanderers lie in wait in the semi-final and while it will be
tough, an in-form Seoul, even one not as strong as the 2013 version,
should be able to get through and then take on Al Ain or Al Hilal of
Seoul can collect a first continental title, then they will at least
be able to end what has been a traumatic year for Korean football on