Let’s get sidetracked for a moment about the KNT’s future. Looking back at Brazil 2014, the whole experience wasn’t all doom and gloom. Take for instance the 1st game against Russia (despite the draw, should’ve been a 3 point win). Beyond that, Korean supporters represented in Brazil, and everyone there were in for a hella party, with one of the world’s most beautiful nations as a backdrop. Raymond An from the DC area filmed this visual montage and captured a bit of what it was like to be there for the games and to experience the brilliant culture there.
We’ll be talking with Raymond later to share a bit more about his take on what it was like to be down there with other Korean supporters in Brazil. Thanks to Raymond for sharing that with the Tavern! Time for the Tavern owner to start saving money to go to Brazil…someday…
Kickaround time: Some candidates have now emerged as the KFA has to quickly find a replacement for Hong Myong-Bo, who stepped down as KNT boss. With the Asian Games (in September!) and the Asian Cup (in January!) just around the corner, there’s practically no time to spare in the hunt.
Might I add – I know there isn’t consensus about Hong Myong-Bo around the Korean diaspora, but did the anti-Hong folks in Korea shoot themselves in the foot here? There’s no one thing that made Hong decide to step down, but netizens along with some Korean media muckracking (that would put Fox News to shame) probably frustrated Hong enough to resign over what some may consider non-controversies. What non-controversies you might ask? How about the media bringing up the fact Hong tried to buy an apartment in May. As manufactured scandals go, this one is weak. Here’s another: having a party with the players after the Belgium game. Outrageous, you might yell if you’re inclined to throw yeots any given day. How dare the team smile, drink and eat after bringing shame on the nation? They should be crawling and groveling and have their heads literally hanging low, a couple of inches would do, to show proper regret for their performance. And if you believe that sentiment makes any sense, I have a sure fire business proposition for you involving factories and low wage labor based in North Korea. You just can’t lose! What? I’m not crossing my fingers behind my back…
Whether you liked Hong or not, the manner and timing of his resignation may ultimately prove counter-productive given the Asian cup is several months away. More immediately there’s 2 friendlies just scheduled in South America in September against Venezula September 5 and possibly Uruguay on September 9th. [*originally I went on a rant thinking the senior NT is involved with the Asian games. Jae reminded me it’s a U23/hybrid team like an Olympic squad eligible to play and possibly win a coveted Gold medal. Why is Gold important? Scroll to the very end of the post…]
Looking ahead to January, John Duerden wrote in the Guardian that the Asian teams failures in the World Cup could prove to be beneficial to building up excitement for the Asian Cup.
So who are the lucky contestants (so far) for the next KNT coach, one who may have questionable support from the KFA and a uber-nationalistic public that doesn’t go to K-League games but care more about KNT results and image rather than a proper building of a football program?
Step right up Contestant #1: Kim Ho-Gon, Ulsan Horangi manager who oversaw the club win the Asian title in 2012 with Kim Shin-Wook and Lee Keun-Ho leading the charge. Arirang suspects he may take the temporary or permanent key.
Yonhap is reporting (via Danish papers) that Michael Schjonberg is a possible candidate for NT job.
— Jae (@KoreaChukGu) July 18, 2014
Schjonberg is currently assistant manager of Valerenga in Norway. He was previously manager of Vestjaelland in Denmark. — Jae (@KoreaChukGu) July 18, 2014
For more on that, Yonhap news‘s Yoo Jee-ho got the skinny. In his article, Schjonberg is described as a ‘relatively unknown’ but apparently had been sought after by both Japan (which sacked Zaccheroni last month) and Korea.
Contestant #3: Lee Yong-Soo, TV analyst, founding member of FC Seoul, ex Pohang player (Tavern owner: North Korean factory offer still on the table…)
Contestant #3: Hwang Sun-Hong, Pohang Steelers manager. Pohang currently tops the K-League Classic table and won the double last year (K-League title and FA Cup). As a player, he opened the scoring for Korea against Poland in the 2002 World Cup. Not the best nor worst candidate, but given the ‘poisoned chalice’ hot potato that is the KNT managerial position, he might not want it.
Contestant #4: Jung Hae-seong, head of the KFA referee’s committee and ex-Chunnam Dragons manager.
wait…where have I seen him before? That film Shaolin Soccer maybe…
Robert Prosinečki has said that he wants to be a Hong Myung-bo’s successor.
— Korea Football News (@KORFootballNews) July 19, 2014
Contestant #6: Not officially floated on KFA’s radar, but an anonymous Tavern goer suggests ex USMNT & ex Egypt boss Bob Bradley. Here’s his rationale: “The KFA is in utter chaos following a humiliating showing at the 2014 World Cup, leading to resignations of Hong Myung-Bo, and two top officials. Much of the poor performance can be attributed to the discontinuity and lack of international experience brought upon by having 3 different managers during the past World Cup cycle. I believe that the right man for the job is Bob Bradley. He most recently ended his term coaching the Egyptian national team following elimination from the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, (chronicled in a recently aired PBS documentary “American Pharaoh.”) Hired in 2011 at a time of great political upheaval, what struck me was how his commitment to the team never wavered through the entire World Cup cycle despite the surrounding violence (including a deadly soccer riot in Port Said Stadium and the burning down of the Egyptian football headquarters in Cairo.) He came across as a man of great character and intelligence, Korean football could benefit greatly from his international experience, having guided the USMNT to the round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup with arguably a lesser talented team than this year’s US squad. He would be the right person to bring stability to the KFA and guide the KNT through the next cycle.”
Update 7/23/14 > not sure of the veracity of the claims but here’s some other rumoured candidates:
Ex-Barcelona and Athletico Madrid manager Radomir Antic has expressed a willingness to manage the Korean NT.
— Korea Football News (@KORFootballNews) July 21, 2014
Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon also wants to take the Korean national team job. — Korea Football News (@KORFootballNews) July 22, 2014
Not on the KNT radar (yet) ex Vancouver Whitecaps manager Martin Rennie will be hired as Seoul/Eland’s coach. The team will join the 2nd division K-League in their first season. From initial indications, this team seems to have club management fundamentals going in the right directions that may set them apart from other K-League clubs. Martin Rennie was in charge of the Whitecaps when Lee Young-Pyo played his last and retired from professional football last December.
— Martin Rennie (@Renniecoaching) July 17, 2014
Before moving on, last Hong resignation item, this from Yonhap news Yoo Jee-Ho:
Hong said something strange/controversial about talent of K League Classic players; that top K Leagueg guys would be “B-rated” in Europe — Jeeho Yoo (@Jeeho_1) July 10, 2014
“…the top-rated South Korean players would be in the second tier in Europe; ones currently in the K League Classic are below that level.” — Jeeho Yoo (@Jeeho_1) July 10, 2014
This was in Hong’s resignation press conference response to charges of favoritism in players selections during the World Cup. Let’s get a fuller context and go to Yoo’s original article from the press conference: Hong said he agonized over what to do with talented players who were confined to the bench in Europe and with players who were playing on a regular basis at home but clearly had less talent. “When evaluating all the K League Classic players, I felt those based in Europe were better choices,” the outgoing coach said. “I’d say the top-rated South Korean players would be in the second tier in Europe. And the ones currently in the K League Classic are below that level.” I’m going to disagree with Yoo, there’s nothing controversial really about Hong’s statement. If memory serves correct, K-Leaguers (and no European based players since it wasn’t an official FIFA break) were given ample opportunity to shine back in late December and early January for the KNT’s mini USA tour, facing Mexico, Costa Rica and the USMNT. It was a disaster and unfortunately K-Leaguers were shown the door by the best the MLS and Liga MX offered. Back to Yoo’s article: Hong said the loss to Mexico made a huge impact on his roster decisions. “The key is to find the balance between skilled players who aren’t seeing action in foreign leagues and less gifted ones in the domestic league who are playing more frequently,” Hong said. “I think there are enough talented players in the pool, but getting them together to build a team is another matter.” A meaningless win over shockingly disparate C-squad Costa Rican team and the domestic experiment was over. Hong knew right then and there just how lacking in depth he had on hand going to the World Cup. Any injuries from European based players, any setbacks, just like a mathematical equation -it could only equal a subpar KNT. And that’s just what happened. Korean Footballers Abroad had an accurate assessment of the KNT during the World Cup, factoring in overlooked items like Yun, Hong, PCY, Koo, Kimbo – all these essential elements getting uneven club minutes and/or injuries. Yet they represent Korea’s best. The solution? Hard to say exactly, other than if you buy the notion that Japan technically performed better in the World Cup (even though they exited early like Korea), they have more players honing skills in Europe. It’s a sheer numbers game. Take a look at this interactive Washington Post site detailing World Cup teams and the leagues they belong to. Korea ranks not quite at the bottom for number of players in European top flight, but they aren’t too far from that (take note at Japan’s numbers and compare that with Korea’s). Players get injured, happens all the time. That’s the ironic dilemma for Korea, despite boasting a squad with the most in top flight European teams, they didn’t match the results from the last KNT World Cup squad. The risk that those critical players get injured or under-utilized increases the risk to the national team. There is however a possible threshold number that may better predict success. Look at the perennially consistent World Cup squads, they are stacked with players getting minutes in top flight Euro teams. That equals a better chance for a deeper squad despite the injuries, etc. Time to sound like a broken record: Japan does not have mandatory military conscription. Perhaps their trend towards right wing nationalism could have one positive effect…that is if they reinstate their military conscription program. Then it will be time for the Blue Samurais to start singing the Samurai Blues. Given the circumstance of North Korea as a volatile neighbor, it will probably be incredibly difficult to change the current paradigm. The other option: to dramatically improve the domestic K-League scene. Regardless of how many they can export abroad, for Korea to become a football international powerhouse, the domestic football landscape has to improve, period. That story of if or when that can happen is still unfolding, not to mention what to do about the sorry state of the near empty football stadiums and difficult to find TV broadcasts. Sound dire but there is always the potential for a more positive trend (reminds me to look up Tim’s preview of K-League games this weekend). More on all that in our upcoming Blueprint for the Future series. Stay tuned… Still here? We’ve got some good news to report: