U-19 national team manager Ahn Iksoo has resigned.
Ahn was heavily criticized following Korea’s underwhelming AFC U-19 Championship performance. Lacklustre defensive performances and offensive stagnation against minnows Thailand and Bahrain presaged what was coming next: a stunning defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabia which saw the Koreans fail to advance to the knockout round for the 2nd tournament in a row.
Notably, Ahn came under heavy fire because of his hesitance to use Barcelona B playmaker Paik Seungho, claiming he was “unfit to play” and would perhaps only be used in the Group Stage. Furthermore, his old-school approach indicated he likely did not highly rate Korean football prodigy and La Masia Academy’s Lee Seungwoo.
The embarrassing first round exit in the AFC Championship was only compounded by the fact that the Koreans will host next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. It seems that the KFA has adjudged that despite strong friendly results against Brazil, France and England, recent struggles against Asian minnows could indicate a humiliating 3-and-out performance at home from this age group next summer.
Ahn said that he tendered his resignation because he is responsible of the team’s shortcomings in the AFC tournament and because he no longer believes that the squad can meet his own personal objective of a semi-final finish at the FIFA tournament.
This feels like another one of those disappointing but necessary endings. Ahn likely felt the pressure for not integrating Paik and Lee Seungwoo into the side, but his stubborn mentality seems to suggest it wasn’t this that caused his resignation. Nonetheless, the KFA needs a U-20 manager who is willing to use their tournament poster boys, and Ahn’s old-school ways simply weren’t compatible with this.
It will be interesting who the KFA grants with the responsibility of coaching this team midway through a cycle. The new manager will have less than 8 months and a handful of tournaments/friendlies to work with. Will the KFA go with a more “inside” name? Former Pohang and U17 boss Choi Jincheul is looking for work. Current Daejeon manager Choi Moonsik will likely (hopefully) soon be dismissed – he was assistant coach to the U23 side under Lee Gwangjong. Will they go big by asking Shin Taeyong to refocus his talents and attack-minded mentality to this side (which would say a lot about his influence of Stielike’s managership of the national team). Or will they turn to a successful manager currently coaching at the university level (where this age group plays)?
One thing is for sure: the new manager has his work cut out with little time to prepare for the big stage.