Soccer suffers from lack of homegrown coachesOnce when writing a column on the global dominance of Korean taekwondo I repeated Mark Twain’s words of wisdom: “Give a man a reputation as an early riser and that man can sleep until noon,” which perfectly reflected the current status of the sport.
After watching the Olympic soccer team play Japan, I can’t help but remember Mr. Twain’s wisdom once again. Not that Korean soccer has built a reputation as a global powerhouse on the level of taekwondo, but the mentality with which the game is viewed in this country certainly hints to an arrogance previously nonexistent.
When examining how the Korean soccer team has performed on all fronts since the World Cup, from the Olympic team through to the national side, it is unfortunate to report that the overall offering has sunk back to pre-World Cup levels, except for the improvement of a few individual players.
Contrary to a Japanese team that showed solid teamwork, excellent through-passing and good pressure in the midfield, our side has reverted to tactics that have characterized Korean soccer since its inception. When on offense, besides lobbing a long ball down the flanks, there was a severe lack of imagination. The passes worked better due to the improvement of the players, but other than that, nothing has changed.
Korea still does not have the ability to capitalize on set-pieces or use one-touch passing plays through the middle, while Japanese soccer now displays a healthy dose of diversity in tactics.
If you constantly hammer the ball down the sides, it doesn’t matter if you have a natural striker on the team, scoring chances will be few and far between. Ignoring the lack of creativity in attack, scoring problems are constantly blamed on the absence of a pure goal scorer. A clinical finisher may be needed, but so is a change in tactics.
Currently, Korea sits at 23 in the FIFA world rankings, but that certainly doesn’t imply that lower ranked countries such as Russia (25), Japan (28) and Norway (32) are gimmes. Nor does it mean that we are on equal footing with Italy, Spain and Portugal, or that we are even close.
Korea may have beat those teams in the World Cup, and yes, we played well then, but home-field advantage and the coaching skills of Guus Hiddink combined to produce extraordinary results.
There is no question that the team improved by quantum leaps under the different coaching style and methods of Mr. Hiddink. From systematically building up player strength and stamina, to using video analysis of the opponent, he brought ideas never tried before with the national side.
While domestic coaches have been good enough to raise the country’s soccer level to the best in Asia, they have lacked the knowledge needed to groom players to compete at the highest level. The brief tenure of Mr. Hiddink during the World Cup had a tremendous effect on the squad, like a massive injection of super-steroids.
The momentum of the World Cup is long gone. If Korea ever hopes to move beyond its regional powerhouse status ― and this is a region nowhere near the top levels in the first place ― we must import more foreign coaches who have the experience and knowledge to teach our players the fundamentals. This is especially critical at the youth level.
There are no short-term solutions. As long as we lack homegrown coaches who can implement the necessary changes over the long term, we have no choice but to look outside for help.
by Brian Lee