With the 3-man shortlist reportedly settled on, and Shin Tae-yong reportedly receiving “low marks” from the hiring committee, let’s take a look at a few of the names who could be Korea’s next national team manager.
Series Index (this is a sad series index…)
This will be a two-part series (if we can beat the release of the shortlist!) for the sake of giving y’all a post. The order in which the candidates are presented in no way reflects my estimated likelihood. It’s actually a product of Random List Generator.
Profile: Former Japanese national team manager, and before that led Algeria to a brave Round of 16 exit at the 2014 World Cup. Vahid has been in management for nearly three decades, with peaks and valleys like any manager. He won the CAF Champions League in 1997 with Casablanca, promoted Lille in 2000, won the French Cup and was league runner-up with PSG in 2004, won the Croatian league with Zagreb in 2011. However, he flopped in the Ivory Coast and Trabzonspor, and wasn’t far off from getting the sack after less than two years in Algeria after finishing bottom of the group at the 2013 African Cup of Nations. His sacking by the JFA just months from the World Cup was a culmination of tension between the FA and Vahid, due in part to his strict and spiky personality, but also dissatisfaction in the media for what was three years of laborious performances. The break-up was messy: tears, explosive attacks in the media and an impending lawsuit.
Style/Compatibility: Halilhodzic consistently prefers a 4-back defensive line and a physical centre-forward (but not necessarily a target man). He’s remembered best in recent years for what he did at Algeria at the 2014 World Cup. Widely expected to be the whipping boys of the group, Algeria stunned Korea with a 4-2 victory before drawing Russia and bringing eventual World Champions Germany to extra time in the Round of 16. Though the side had a solid defensive framework to rely on, their real weapon lied in direct, physical and fast-paced counter-attacks through Slimani and Feghouli. With Japan, he sought to inject new blood and dropped Kagawa, Okazaki and Honda, but the team’s performances lacked cohesion and were disjointed more times than not.
His compatibility in purely tactical terms with Korea seems… acceptable. The kinds of offensive players Korea has seems to be much more of Vahid’s style than at Japan – he admitted as much after the 4-1 Korean win over Japan at the East Asian Championship. Where difficulties could lie, however, is in his abrasiveness. Are the Korean media and cronies ready for a straight-shooter? Vahid’s notoriously authoritarian and outspoken demeanor has seen him get into trouble on more than one occasion, including an animated half-time argument/brawl with the Zagreb owner which saw him promptly fired. Though he could be “refreshing” in terms of calling out problems publicly when he sees them and taking no bullsh*t from the media, the same reasons that saw him get fired in Japan could very easily reoccur in Korea.
As an aside, this would mean the KFA would have to hire some French-speaking staff for the first time.
Likelihood: The favorite? It’s hard to tell at this point, but many of the fans seem to be on the Vahid train and it even seemed last week that an announcement was due imminently. We know, however, that Vahid has also been in talks with Egypt (though they recently appear to have broken down).
Profile: The youngest manager on this list, it feels like AVB has been around for a long time, and yet he’s just 40 years old. A former understudy of Jose Mourinho, AVB famously led Porto to a treble and undefeated season in his only year in charge of the club. Hailed as the new managerial genius, Chelsea threw dollops of cash at Porto to acquire AVB’s services. When things went downhill at Stamford Bridge in less than a year, Tottenham were quick to snap him up. Neither English stint was particularly successful or illustrious, while his 2-year tenure at Zenit drew sharp criticism from fans for the team’s style of play. He later moved to China for another year at Shanghai SIPG in 2016-17.
Style/Compatibility: There appears to be two faces of AVB: one where he remains faithfully idealistic, implementing a high line and emphasis on pressing, and the other where he becomes harshly pragmatic, playing a cautious and stale defensive approach. Across the board he sticks to 4-2-3-1/4-3-3.
What kind of AVB would turn up to the KNT? The optimist would say that in Asia, he’ll be more idealistic and try to drill pressing cohesion into mobile attackers like Lee Seung-woo, Hwang Hee-chan and Son Heung-min, while in international competition he plays more reserved, counter-attacking football. The pessimist will say that AVB just can’t get it right anymore — he’ll make weird line-up selections, he was just a one-hit wonder at Porto, he’s “corrupted” as a manager and if things go downhill after a year or so he’ll jump ship. There’s a legitimate question to be asked if AVB can really keep a team for longer than a year or two.
Likelihood: Seems to be a viable option. Every report of a three-man shortlist (there have been so many false reports…) seems to have him in the loop. A lot of what his tactical resume is about fits how Kim Pan-gon wants the national team to play.
Profile: Anyone who vaguely follows Asian football will know of Quieroz’s exploits at Iran. His 7 years with Team Melli has seen his tactical nous and persistence with an unorganized federation triumph, with two valiant World Cup showings under his belt. I’d argue he has somewhat single-handedly returned Iran to Asian powerhouse status. Formerly Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant manager, and tipped to be his eventual successor at Old Trafford by Ferguson himself, he was also briefly the managers of Portugal and Real Madrid — though neither of those appointments led to much success. Still, Quieroz has a wealth of experience in all sorts of environments and leagues, including on the international level.
Style/Compatibility: Quieroz is famous for being ultra-defensive in his tactical approach. In some ways, he complemented SAF perfectly, providing a defensive structure and advice for Ferguson’s more aggressive instincts and impulses. His meticulousness and emphasis on organization have seen his hard-working Iranian sides push Argentina and Portugal to their limits at both the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.
When you strictly look at Korea’s defensive woes and how to fix them, Carlos Quieroz is an appealing solution. Given his track record, it’s actually hard to see how he would not be able to patch Korea’s backline. However, this comes at a sacrifice. Quieroz’s tactics worked at Iran because Iran (no disrespect) don’t have very many exciting attacking players. In the 2018 World Cup side, it was all about Alireza Jahanbahksh and Sardar Azmoun, and nothing else. Korea has more talent going forwards, which could create a similar situation to what arose in his 2010 World Cup with Portugal – just 1 goal conceded in 4 games, but none scored (outside of the 7-0 anomaly win over North Korea) even with a prodigic Ronaldo.
Likelihood: Quieroz has already said that he’s staying with Iran until the Asian Cup, and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have bothered with this profile. However, Korean media is floating his name more and more recently, without an angry KFA Twitter denial in sight. There clearly have at least been negotiations, but with keeping Shin short-term and hiring Quieroz in January no longer an option, I’d rank this as unlikely for the time being.
In the next post: Cesar Prandelli, Antonio Conte, Claudio Ranieri… and Jurgen Klinsmann (nooooo~~~).