Korea FA says coach fired to make World Cup
The Korean Football Association said Thursday it decided to fire the national team coach, Cho Kwang-rae, to ensure the underperforming squad qualifies for the 2014 World Cup.
Cho, who was appointed in July 2010, had been under pressure since South Korea's shock 2-1 defeat to Lebanon in a World Cup qualifier last month. The loss left the Koreans level with Lebanon atop Group B with 10 points and needing a point in their final group game against Kuwait in February to progress to the final round.
Cho's dismissal was first reported by national broadcaster KBS on Wednesday evening.
KFA President Cho Chung-yeon said Thursday the organization believed South Korea's chances of qualifying for the World Cup could have been in jeopardy with Cho Kwang-rae at the helm.
''With the present coach, we judged that qualifying for the World Cup would be difficult so we decided to fire him,'' Cho Chung-yeon said prior to a news conference to announce the decision.
He said a new coach is expected to be named by the end of the month.
''We will appoint a replacement with lots of experience and ability,'' Cho said. ''If he is the right man for the job, it is not important if he is Korean or from overseas.''
Two Koreans considered to be favorites for the position have already ruled themselves out. Choi Kang-hee, who led Jeonbuk Motors to a second K-League title last weekend, and Hong Myung-bo, who was captain of the 2002 World Cup team and is now an Olympic team coach, have told local media they are not interested in the job.
Afshin Ghotbi, an Iranian-American former assistant coach with the South Korean team and current head coach of the Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.
Ghotbi, who is also the former Iran head coach, said, however, that he is concentrating on his job in Japan.
''I am honored to be mentioned as a possible candidate to be the next coach of the South Korea team,'' Ghotbi said by telephone from Japan. ''I have happy memories of my time in Korean football and have strong affection for the players and fans.''
''At the moment however, I am fully focused on ending the season with a trophy for S-Pulse in the Emperor's Cup. I have worked very hard building foundations over the past year and hope to reach the club targets next season.''
Cho Kwang-rae told local media that he was surprised by his dismissal.
''If they weren't happy with the way I ran the national team, then the technical committee could have discussed it and explained it to me,'' Cho was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency. ''If they decide, after talking things over, that they can't accept my style of coaching, then I can absolutely accept that. But it should never be like this.''
Cho took over the squad after former coach Huh Jung-moo resigned following the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Huh had led the team to its seventh consecutive appearance in the tournament. The South Koreans advanced out of the group stage for the first time on foreign soil before being knocked out in a 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the Round of 16.
Cho, the former coach of K-League teams FC Seoul and Gyeongnam, promised a new brand of fast-paced football and called up a host of young players who impressed at the 2011 Asian Cup in Japan, where the team finished in third place.
South Korea also got a series of encouraging wins over Honduras, Serbia and Ghana in friendlies, but suffered a resounding 3-0 defeat to Japan in August.