Thursday, July 26, 2007

Verbeek On The Brink

Verbeek On The Brink.
Verbeek On The Brink

No sooner had Kim Jung-woo missed South Korea’s fifth penalty kick against Iraq in the semi-final of the Asian Cup in Kuala Lumpur than the country’s media was speculating over the future of coach Pim Verbeek.

After two spells as assistant under Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat, Verbeek took over the head coach position a year ago, promising colourful and intelligent football. According to one leading sports site, OSEN, there was little of that on display as Korea scored only three goals in five games – two of which went to extra time.

The 0-0 draw with Iraq saw Korea enjoy plenty of possession and pressure but few chances were created as strikers Cho Jae-jin, Lee Chun-soo and Lee Dong-gook went through the competition without finding the back of the net.

Before the tournament, Verbeek told me that: “If we fail to reach the semi-finals that I will seriously consider my position.” This statement became headline news in Korea and it has led to the Dutchmen having to field questions about possible resignations every time the team looked to be in danger of crashing out.

After the last four exit, it was inevitable that the issue would be raised once more and so, in the post-match press conference, Verbeek had the following to say.

"I took my decision already but I am not going to say what it is because I want to keep the Korean people excited for the next couple of days.But if the Korean fans think we didn’t play a good tournament than they must have a different vision of playing international football.

"I think a lot of countries would be very proud to reach the semi-finals and to see their team fight until the very last second of extra time to get to the final. I should be proud to be a fan of Korean football because while we did not always play good, we were not outplayed in any game throughout this tournament and we were fighting like hell to get a good result.

“If people think that is not enough that’s okay because I have no problem with that.”

The 50-year old’s contract finishes at the end of the Beijing Olympics, a competition that South Korea have a good chance of qualifying for. Verbeek is also at the helm of that team and the chance it gives to work with the country’s young players is something he enjoys very much. It remains to be seen if that is enough to keep him from leaving.

Reaction to Korea’s performances in the Korean media have mostly been of disappointment with the coach rather than outright anger. “Is Verbeek responsible for the goal-less strikers?” asks one article. Reasonable questions are being asked though the coach’s leadership and tactical skills have not been well-received. A lack of variety when attacking is the most common complaint.

It is entirely possible, even probable, that Verbeek will head home to Europe and Korea will be in the position of trying to replace Hiddink for a sixth time in the space of five years.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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