[SPORTS VIEW]Hiddink replacement list is down to 2

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[SPORTS VIEW]Hiddink replacement list is down to 2

Like we saw when Guus Hiddink led the national soccer team to the World Cup semifinals, a good coach is essential to a team's success. He has to manage the personalities of his players, bringing out their best abilities while generating camaraderie.

The Korea Football Association is readying to choose Hiddink's successor, and says it will announce its decision next month. There are two front-runners for the job, both foreigners -- the team did so well under the much-experienced Hiddink, it seems right to continue with a coach who has an international background. The new coach will take over a successful, optimistic team but be under quite a lot of pressure.

The association said Monday that the top candidates to replace Hiddink are Humberto Manuel de Jesus Coelho, from Portugal, and Bruno Metsu, from France. Coelho has a longer resume than Metsu, but Metsu is more recognizable for Koreans -- he was the coach who led the Senegalese team to the quarterfinals in the World Cup this year.

Coelho, as a player, was on European league teams such as Ramaldense and SL Benefica in the Portuguese league and Paris Saint Germain in the French league. A sweeper, he played for Portugal in 64 class-A matches, scoring six goals. He has also played 71 games at the UEFA Cup tournament. At home they called him the "Portugese Beckenbauer."

Coelho was the head coach of the Portuguese national team for three years from 1997. He led the Portugese to a shocking third place finish at the 2000 Euro Championship -- a feat that catapulted Portugal into the elite of the soccer world. He went on to coach the Moroccan national team, narrowly missing a berth in this year's World Cup.

Metsu played in the Dutch and French leagues for RSC Anderlecht and Olympique Lille, then coached CS Sedan and Lille. His Senegalese team, which he had coached for two years, upset France in the World Cup opener. Under his guidance Senegal won 14 out of 19 international class-A matches. Metsu now coaches a club in the United Arab Emirates, and is under contract until May.

In the qualifying rounds for this year's World Cup, Coelho's Morrocan team and Metsu's Senegalese squad were neck and neck. Both had records of 4-3-1 in the African region. But Metsu's team advanced on the basis of goals scored.

Korea's soccer governing body is down to these two Europeans after starting with about 70 possible candidates to replace Hiddink -- mostly names of coaches who have participated in big tournaments like the 1998 and 2002 World Cups and the Euro 2000 Championships.

An official at the association said Coelho has the edge, because of his wider experience and current contract status. Many sports commentators have been saying Metsu will get the nod, but I think Coelho will draw the longer straw. Like the official said, his track record is longer and better. He has been a successful coach of European teams, and is the right match for the Koreans.

But we can't expect him or the team to easily repeat what happened this year. Surely, though, the pressure on him to do so will be heavy.

by Brian Lee

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