Coaching Candidates?

Despite the earlier reports, the KFA has said that Hong Myeong-Bo has not been chosen/agreed to be the next national team coach. The KFA said they have four candidates in mind, with Hong being the clear frontrunner. Who the other three are was not disclosed but reports are they are former Turkey national team boss Senol Gunes. Ulsan manager Kim Ho-Gon is another reportedly on the shortlist. Other names mentioned are Marcelo Bielsa, Bert Van Marwijk, and Frank Rijkaard.

Hong Myeong-Bo

The apparent front runner for the job. Hong doesn’t have a lot of managerial experience. He served as an assistant manager under Pim Verbeek with the senior side before taking charge of the U-20 and later U-23 team. Nonetheless he is a legend in Korea and well-respected in Asia. The “Eternal Libero” really earned his stripes by leading the U-23/Olympic team to a bronze medal finish at the 2012 London Olympics. There the team earned a draw against eventual winners Mexico, knocked out hosts Great Britain, and beat rivals Japan for the bronze.

Pros: Korean, highly-respected, success at the lower level, popular

Cons: Minimal experience at the senior international level, unknown tactical knowledge

Senol Gunes

Gunes is a highly respected Turkish coach who led the Turkish side during the 2002 World Cup where they finished 3rd. Gunes also has experience in Korea as he managed FC Seoul from 2007-2009. Seoul played an attractive passing game, but ultimately fell short of the K League title. He later returned to Turkey where he took control of Trabzonspor. He is generally considered to the be the KFA’s first alternative should Hong Myeong-Bo reject the coaching job. He was recently interviewed by Ilgan Sports about the position, and he said he would happily accept should the position be offered.

Pros: Experienced international manager, familiar with Korea, wants the job

Cons: Hasn’t won much, possible language barriers

Kim Ho-Gon

Kim Ho-Gon is the current manager of K League Classic side Ulsan Hyundai. Kim Ho-Gon led Ulsan to the AFC Champions League title last season, as well as runner-up finishes in the league and cup in 2011. He previously managed another K League club (Busan IPark) and assistant roles with the national team and youth teams.

Pros: Experienced, Korean

Cons: Bias towards Ulsan?, little senior international experience, unknown ability to transition from K League to international level

Marcelo Bielsa

Probably the highest risk/reward manager being listed. The Argentine led the Olympic team to the gold medal in 2004, before taking the helm of the senior Chilean side. With Chile he created an attacking, flowing side that won many followers in South Africa. The Chilean public wanted him to stay, but disagreements with the Chilean FA president saw him leave, and join famous “Spanish” side Athletic Bilbao. Bielsa brought the same style to Bilbao who dazzled many on route to the Europa League final. On the way they eliminated several quality sides, most notably Manchester United. While his sides are often attractive, Bielsa himself is a controversial manager. Very demanding and uncompromising, he frequently has bust ups with players and staff. His training is also highly demanding, and was partially blamed for Bilbao’s poor season this year.

Pros: Experienced, winner

Cons: Cultural issues, language barriers, unfamiliar with Korean football

Bert Van Marwijk

The former Dutch national team boss is a rumored target as well. Seems unlikely, but I suppose it’s possible. Led the Dutch national team to the runner-up spot in South Africa, but a disastrous showing at Euro 2012 (where the team lost all 3 matches to Denmark, Germany, and Portugal) cost him his job. I don’t know much about Van Marwijk’s coaching style or personality, but he seems to be a fairly calm and mellow coach.

Pros: Experienced, led high-profile teams successfully, can deal with pressure

Cons: Language barrier, unfamiliar with Korean football

Frank Rijkaard

A legendary player with Ajax and Milan, and a successful coach with Barcelona. After winning the Champions League with Barca, Rijkaard’s coaching career went a bit downhill. Unsuccessful stints with Galatasaray and Saudi Arabia followed. Rijkaard has shown an ability to build successful club sides, but that he is not always capable of managing big egos (most notably his fall out with Ronaldinho). His failure to perform with Saudi Arabia is concerning as the Green Falcons failed to make it out of the 3rd round of World Cup qualifications and the group stages of the Gulf of Nations tournament.

Pros: Successfully led club sides, respected

Cons: History of failure at senior international level, language barriers, unfamiliar with Korean football

Who Then?

I still maintain that Hong Myeong-Bo is the best man. While others may boast more impressive CV’s, Hong can bring a couple of intangibles that the others cannot. Namely the ability to connect and galvanize the players into a group, which is what I believe they need the most. The other listed possible candidates are well-respected, but Hong is a legend for Korean players, it’s difficult to imagine any player doubting him or his instructions. It would be nice if he was more experienced, but the Olympic and qualifying performances show that he is capable of leading a team. Many of the players coming into the set-up are players who played under him at the U-23 level, so they and he are familiar with each other.

After Hong is Senol Gunes. Respected, and importantly familiar with the players. A year is not long, but it’s enough for a manager with a vision and familiarity to harness the talent we have. His natural managerial style and play would fit in well with the players.

I don’t think it would go beyond these two managers. I also don’t feel that any of the other rumored candidates would be a good match with the team.

About Jae Chee 339 Articles
A football fan who got bit by the writing bug.


  1. Japan hired a foreign coach. They took a risk, and now Japan is a dark horse. Not only does Korea need a new coach, mentality must be renewed and ego must be set aside.

    • I’m not against a foreign coach per se, but I think the team needs a coach that understands the way things work and how to reach and motivate the players. Foreign coaches can certainly bring stuff to the table, but it’s important that they can communicate with the players in training and during games. Ultimately I would like a coach that brings the best ‘package’ of qualities to the table. To me, that would be Hong Myeong-Bo.

      Japan is good, but I wouldn’t put them in the dark horse category yet. I think they can reach the round of 16, maybe the quarters with a bit of luck, but I would be surprised if they went beyond that.

  2. I wish Korea can go to the quarter-finals (again) lol. Of course, they will need a bit of luck. Progress takes time, but credit to the Koreans and Japanese for upgrading Asian football in the past ten years.

  3. Athletic Bilbao has always been my team since I was a kid (I’m a Korean from Spain). And hands down Bielsa could have a revolutionary impact on the team. Yes, players chafed at playing for him because he was demanding, and press conferences with Korean reporters would certainly have comedic value given his propensity to talk at length.

    But he’s foremost a student of football. The tactical ideas he would bring to the team would benefit us for years to come. Pair him up with Hong MB as one of his assistants and his eventual sucessor (though Bielsa has a close knit team who have worked with him for years), and we would be making an investment for the future. And he has a kind side, always making sure kids can attend training sessions and having a kind gesture with them.

    I doubt we would get him. But he is my dream candidate.

    • I agree Bielsa could have a huge impact on the offensive side of the team, but I would worry a bit about the defense and the impact of his demanding coaching style. Could be good (get the players more focused and in better shape) or be bad (player revolt, unmotivated).

      Just out of curiosity, do you live in the Basque Country?

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