The earth moved today, and not in the Hemingway sense of the phrase. In the midst of ominous dark clouds over Ulsan following a pathetic 0-1 loss to Iran that just barely qualified Korea for the 8th consecutive time into the World Cup finals [Jae chronicles in Falling into the World Cup], the KFA to moved quickly in immediately accepting Choi Kang-Hee’s resignation – [see Jinseok’s The End of the KNT Dark Age]. But the big surprise was the KFA’s appointment of Hong-Myong-Bo as the new KNT manager several hours after Choi’s resignation. *Note, Naver.com put out the Hong appointment claim and is not yet completely confirmed though from all indications, this has the appearance of a done deal – we’re waiting for official word from Hong himself.
Everyone was looking forward to Choi’s plan to step down -after all, he had been talking about that for some time before the qualifiers -his intent to return to Jeonbuk and be relieved of the job he never wanted in the first place. There was speculation as to who would take over the job, but (if confirmed) no one imagined the KFA already had in mind Hong Myong-Bo to take the reins – not to mention how quickly they worked on a solution to the KNT’s woes. Networks and forums temporarily crashed -the last frozen images of words from supporters turning their anger over the sad state of their Taeguk Warriors merely a few hours ago –now turning into a cyber version of a pitch invasion, joy and relief mixed with nail biting anticipation. And it’s all about a coach that nearly a year ago elevated the South Korean football U-23 hybrid team with a medal victory over Japan in the 2012 Summer Olympics. His stature in Korean football was already cemented a decade ago as the captain of the legendary 2002 Korean team. That Taeguk Warrior squad made a historic run in the World Cup – going farther than any Asian team in history, all the way into the semifinals (until losing just 1-0 to Germany). Hanging over as a persistent cloud, there is considerable concern over the collateral damage to the Korean national team and to their form as a direct consequence of the Choi Kang-Hee era -with some analysts wondering if it’s too much and too severe to recover before Brazil 2014.
Hong had been on a short list of supporters’ favorites to take over the reins of the mismanaged team. According to various sources, Marcelo Bielsa as well as Şenol Güneş were bandied about as possible replacements to take the team after qualifications to get the side back to competitive form in time for 2014. Korean media Naver.com reported in the early morning hours that Hong was named as the new manager.
This is the information I can piece together from the twitterverse thus far: (according to an unnamed KFA source) the KFA initially tried to get Hong on board to take the levers of management in March -all through backdoor channels, but the Anzhi Makhachkala assistant coach turned down the idea. Hong started to change his mind in May, so secret negotiations between him and the KFA began in earnest then. Indications were, he didn’t want to necessarily step into the hotseat so soon – rather at some point in the leadup to the World Cup in 2018. He could continue to learn management from the boss that led him and the Taeguk Warriors to glory in the 2002 World Cup, Guus Hiddink (whose contract was extended 3 years). Perhaps given the utter ‘fucktastrophy’ under Choi Kang-hee despite having several world class players on the squad, several of whom were veterans of his own 2012 Olympic medalist side, Hong decided to take the plunge. This also gives some immediate cover for the KFA, as they were facing an imminent angry revolt from supporters given the Choi calamity and poor qualification run.
More on the (probable) Hong appointment later…
A few other Tavern notes: The Washington Post’s Soccer Insider reported the Asian qualifying results today, with Iran and South Korea joining Australia today in qualifying for Brazil 2014. Japan had already qualified in group A. Interesting note, as South Korea qualified for it’s 8th consecutive time, they joined an interesting club of nations in consecutive qualifying appearances. From today’s Soccer Insider:
“The only nations to appear in more consecutive World Cups:
After South Korea, the United States is next at six.
In the Asian playoff, Uzbekistan will play Jordan or Oman this fall, the winner taking on the South American fifth-place side in another stage.”
This Tavern Owner wouldn’t mind seeing this spirited Uzbekistan squad finally qualify for the first time in their nations’ history.
Attention will turn soon towards the U-20 World Cup later this week (with South Korea qualifying with the AFC U-19 Championship title last year), but for now, we can speculate on several players who may be looking for transfers in Europe, including Park Ji-Sung, Park Chu-Young, Ji Dong-Won, Koo Ja-Cheol and Yun Suk-Young. We’ll be posting soon on their situations as the summer break/transfer season is well under way, but we’ll go ahead with this: BSK forum spotted this from Portuguese media outlet Abola, who report that Eintracht Frankfurt are interested in Maritimo’s Suk Hyun-Jun. The tall South Korean striker transferred to the Portugese squad in January from FC Groningen, scoring 4 goals in 13 appearances in the latter half of the season. Maritimo finished the Portugese Liga season in 7th place.
Last note: we go to France where last Thursday Jeong Chung-Geun became another Korean to join a top flight European team, signing with FC Nantes, newly promoted back to Ligue 1 for next season. The 18 year old inked a 3 year contract. Since September 2010, he’s risen through the ranks of Nante’s youth squad through “strong performances” to get a spot on the first team.