Hong Myung-bo, who led the Korean team to a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, was the top choice in the list of coaches evalued by KFA to succeed Choi Kang-hee as the manager of the Korean national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Turkey national team boss Senol Gunes, Ulsan manager Kim Ho-Gon and Marcelo Bielsa was on the shortlist. But a kind of “no alternative to coach Hong Myung-bo” feeling was prevalent inside the Korea Football Association. There was no time for a foreign coach to examine Korean players with the World Cup just one year ahead.
Hong’s knoweledge of Korean soccer and players made him a better candidate than anyone else. Some of young stars on the roster, such as Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea City) and Koo Ja-cheol (Augsburg), already worked under Hong.
When Choi Kang-hee replaced Cho Kwang-rae in December 2011, he held a team able to perform the tiki-taka brand of football Cho liked. His European style created entertainment and variety on offense. With Choi at the helm the strategy became more predictable with Koreans abandoning the ball control, short passes style in favour of a more direct approach that no suited South Korea’s players. So the National team produced disappointing performances and Choi Kang-hee went under fire.
Hong Myung-bo will have one year to reshape the team. He has the talent to do it. Son Heung-min is the rising star. Park Chu-Young, Ki Sung-yeung and Lee Chung-yong are skillfull and experienced players while youngster such as Ji Dong-Won and Koo Ja-Cheol are looking for transfers in Europe that could improve their strengths. Kim Young Kwon, U23 captain Hong Jeong-Ho and left back Yun Suk-Young form a strong core on defence. Surely, some questions remain unsolved. Like most of Asian teams, South Korea lacks of a true goalscorer. Play direct to Kim Shin-Wook worked against Uzbekistan, but it’s far from team’s strengths. The other big question is where to line up Son Heung-Min. Often lined up as left winger, Bayer Leverkusen player is more effective playing up top or as attacking midfielder behind a centre forward. In the middle of the pitch, Hong will have to find the right partner for Ki Sung-Yueng. Park Jong-Woo, Han Kook-Young, Kim Nam-Il, and Lee Myeong-Joo didn’t enough to convince that they deserve the regular starter spot alongside Ki. Hong has to decide if he wants to line up a passer, a box-to-box midfielder or a defensive one.