Irresponsible well dwellers asking for the impossibleJo Bonfrere is history. And so is our national soccer team that gave us so much joy at the 2002 World Cup. Finished! Kaput! Nada! Those are the words that should be in our minds when we talk about our national squad. A year prior to the 2002 World Cup, when the proud eleven got pulverized 5-0 by France in a friendly, I still remember this middle school kid that summed up on national TV the state of mind of our beloved nation: "I thought we were good but we aren't. We were like frogs living in a well."
Today, we are still living in that well. Only the frog got fatter.
Our one time magical finish does not elevate our team in the eternal rankings of the football world. As it is we are like a lost person in the desert, desperately following Fata Morgana to a pond. And you know what happens to that lone wanderer. He dies a slow death.
South Korea is a team that is the top when not the second best team in Asia. Nevertheless, that no Asian team to date has won the World Cup should serve as a testament to the true skill level of the region, compared to the rest of the world. To say that our team is not exactly a fancied choice at Las Vegas would be an understatement and this should be the underlying attitude we should have for our team at the upcoming World Cup.
Now, comes the question of the vacant coaching job for this not-so-fancied-team. Anyone who comes in to coach this team should ask the Korean Football Association the following question: How much support is there and how much actual time exists to get the players together for training purposes? Only when these circumstances are clear should an offer from the association be considered. The next crucial thing would be the duration of contract. Any contract offering less than a full year after the 2006 World Cup is finished is foolish to accept. This coaching job should not solely focus on the World Cup but to build up a team that can compete on the international stage for a long time. We have to remind ourselves here that we are not searching for a person that could repeat the fourth place finish at the upcoming 2006 World Cup. We have not yet drawn the lots but anything beyond the first round is a great achievement. With less than 10 months to go for the World Cup, to hire a coach now and expect greatness is absurd. It would be like asking the coach to take the fall for the shortcomings of the team.
As far as the World Cup goes, what we are looking for is a coach that can build enough strength in the team to overcome its shortcomings so that hopefully we can pass the first round. South Korea is a team that, at least for a considerable time, will have to play its game on its strength of teamwork, rather than individual skills such as trapping, dribbling, and passing skills, which are on a lower level when compared to European players. Thus, how much this teamwork is built up in the next months leading to the World Cup is the key to a good performance.
One final thing that I would look for in the next coach is the ability to discover new talent. Guus Hiddink, who led the 2002 World Cup team, proved his skills in that area with several of his pupils now playing abroad in the European leagues. We need more of this.
by Brian Lee