Advocaat proud of team, but says more skills were needed
“The Korean players and fans have enormous team spirit,” he said during his final press conference in Korea yesterday. “They love football, and that’s important.”
The coach urged the Korean players to improve their skills by playing more overseas.
“If you play against the world’s top-level teams, and if you play in a lot of competitions, you can improve,” Advocaat said. “Otherwise, you will always be behind.”
He then expressed disappointment in some players, saying “the majority of the players from the 2002 World Cup didn’t improve, and I didn’t expect that.”
The coach attributed the loss to Switzerland, which many fans and players feel was due to bad officiating, to some bad luck.
“If there was a little big of luck [for our side], we could almost do like we did in 2002.”
Since Advocaat took the helm in September, the national team has had modest success. In 20 matches, the team garnered 10 wins, five draws and five losses.
Under the Dutch coach, Korean players posted their first-ever road World Cup win in the first match against Togo, and played an even match against the world’s eighth-ranked team, France.
“It was heartbreaking not to advance to the round of 16, but we’re proud that we did something our predecessors couldn’t,” said Hong Myung-bo, a coach on the national team and a key player on the 2002 squad. “It was significant that our first road win was also a come-from-behind effort.”
The coach’s experiment with a new formation, which featured four defensive backs instead of the traditional three, enjoyed some success. Advocaat also wasn’t afraid to resort back to the three-back formation when certain situations called for adjustments, such as when he inserted a forward in place of a defender in the latter parts of matches.
Also, the team displayed resiliency. In 2002, six of the eight goals the team scored came in the second half, and in Germany, all three goals the team recorded were scored in the latter half. The team was able to establish an image as a durable unit that doesn’t slow down in the later parts of games.
On the other hand, Advocaat didn’t have the luxury of time to help players completely gel, largely due to the professional obligations of some key players.
Because the team cohesion wasn’t at the sharpest heading into Germany, the coach was forced to take on a conservative, defensive mindset to ensure Korea wouldn’t fall behind. It did allow first goals in all three games, and Advocaat had to gamble by sending in forwards. The strategy failed against Switzerland, a strong defensive squad.
The team also lacked a striker with finishing touch around the net, though this is hardly the fault of the coach. Forward Lee Dong-gook would have fit the bill had he not injured a knee weeks before the World Cup, but his lack of speed would have been a setback.
Also, the team’s offense relied heavily on two Premier leaguers, Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo. The attack often began with either of the two controlling the ball, and when opposing defenders pressured them, the Korean team was left with few other options.
It is no mean feat that the team grabbed four points in the first round.
With the World Cup now behind, and no international matches scheduled until the preliminaries of the Asian Cup in September, players will soon go to their respective professional teams.
Advocaat’s contract expired at the conclusion of Korea’s World Cup run, and his assistant Pim Verbeek is now running the show.
Advocaat’s next job will be in Russia, with Zenit St. Petersburg. He will be joined by Korean national team players Kim Dong-jin and Lee Ho.
The former coach also gave props to Verbeek, who has agreed to a two-year contract.
Advocaat called his countryman “a man of quality and a big, big advantage for Korea [more] than any other person.”
by E Choong-hyoung, Yoo Jee-ho
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