(LEAD) With World Cup qualifying round done, S. Korea set to resume men’s nat’l football coaching search


With the second round of the World Cup qualification in the books, South Korea will resume their search for the new head coach for the men’s national team.

South Korea played their final four matches in the second round of the Asian qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup under two different caretaker managers: Hwang Sun-hong for two contests in March and Kim Do-hoon for two more this month. They had three wins and one draw in those four matches, capped by a 1-0 victory over China on Tuesday night in Seoul.

South Korea qualified for the third round with ease, and the next phase kicks off in September. Over the next couple of months, the Korea Football Association (KFA) will look to fill the coaching vacancy on the men’s squad, a task now long overdue.

The KFA sacked the previous head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, on Feb. 16, in the aftermath of South Korea’s semifinal loss at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup. With little time left before South Korea’s next set of games — two World Cup qualif
ying matches against Thailand on March 21 and 26 — the KFA settled on Hwang Sun-hong, then head coach of the men’s under-23 national team, as the temporary bench boss.

The KFA then began its coaching search in earnest in early April, announcing that it planned to interview 11 candidates. Chung Hae-sung, the top KFA official in the searching process as head of the National Teams Committee, said the goal was to name the new head coach by early May or the middle of May at the latest.

And by the end of April, the KFA had narrowed down the list of candidates to three — all of them foreign nationals. Though the KFA didn’t publicly disclose those names, it was a poorly-kept secret that Jesse Marsch, former Leeds United head coach, was in the running.

However, Marsch ended up taking the Canadian men’s job on May 13 after his talks with the KFA fell through, apparently over his salary demand.

Senol Gunes, former Turkey national team head coach who has worked in the South Korean league, was also reportedly consid
ered, but Turkish media reports claiming Gunes had accepted a three-year offer from the KFA turned out to be false.

At the end of May, Spanish media reported that former FC Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez had spurned an offer from South Korea.

With one name after another coming off the list and none entering the rumor mill, the KFA was forced to go with another temporary head coach for the two June matches. Following Tuesday’s win, Kim said he hoped he would be the last caretaker manager for South Korea.

“I hope we will have a new head coach who can guide South Korean football in the right direction,” Kim said. “I think we are capable of winning the possession battles and controlling matches. With the players that are available, I think we have to play a proactive brand of football.”

Now, it is up to the KFA to find a tactician who can make that happen.

According to a KFA official, the National Teams Committee could meet sometime this week or early next week to resume its hiring process.

“Since the end
of the European seasons, we’ve received proposals from several coaches overseas,” the official said. “My understanding is that the National Teams Committee is also not ruling out South Korean candidates.”

The draw for the third round in the World Cup qualification is June 27. The third round will kick off Sept. 5 and conclude on June 10, 2025.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

With World Cup qualifying round done, S. Korea set to resume men’s nat’l football coaching search


With the second round of the World Cup qualification in the books, South Korea will resume their search for the new head coach for the men’s national team.

South Korea played their final four matches in the second round of the Asian qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup under two different caretaker managers: Hwang Sun-hong for two contests in March and Kim Do-hoon for two more this month. They had three wins and one draw in those four matches, capped by a 1-0 victory over China on Tuesday night in Seoul.

South Korea qualified for the third round with ease, and the next phase kicks off in September. Over the next couple of months, the Korea Football Association (KFA) will look to fill the coaching vacancy on the men’s squad, a task now long overdue.

The KFA sacked the previous head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, on Feb. 16, in the aftermath of South Korea’s semifinal loss at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup. With little time left before South Korea’s next set of games — two World Cup qualif
ying matches against Thailand on March 21 and 26 — the KFA settled on Hwang Sun-hong, then head coach of the men’s under-23 national team, as the temporary bench boss.

The KFA then began its coaching search in earnest in early April, announcing that it planned to interview 11 candidates. Chung Hae-sung, the top KFA official in the searching process as head of the National Teams Committee, said the goal was to name the new head coach by early May or the middle of May at the latest.

And by the end of April, the KFA had narrowed down the list of candidates to three — all of them foreign nationals. Though the KFA didn’t publicly disclose those names, it was a poorly-kept secret that Jesse Marsch, former Leeds United head coach, was in the running.

However, Marsch ended up taking the Canadian men’s job on May 13, after his talks with the KFA fell through, apparently over his salary demand.

Senol Gunes, former Turkey national team head coach who has worked in the South Korean league, was also reportedly consi
dered, but Turkish media reports claiming Gunes had accepted a three-year offer from the KFA turned out to be false.

At the end of May, Spanish media reported that former FC Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez had spurned an offer from South Korea.

With one name after another coming off the list and none entering the rumor mill, the KFA was forced to go with another temporary head coach for the two June matches. Following Tuesday’s win, Kim said he hoped he would be the last caretaker manager for South Korea.

“I hope we will have a new head coach who can guide South Korean football in the right direction,” Kim said. “I think we are capable of winning the possession battles and controlling matches. With the players that are available, I think we have to play a proactive brand of football.”

Now, it is up to the KFA to find a tactician who can make that happen.

The draw for the third round in the World Cup qualification is June 27. The third round will kick off Sept. 5 and conclude on June 10, 2025.

Source:
Yonhap News Agency

Son Heung-min ‘uncomfortable’ with transfer speculation


Son Heung-min, captain for both the South Korean men’s national football team and Tottenham Hotspur, has revealed he is “uncomfortable” with media speculation on his next destination.

“I have not had any exchanges with the club. I don’t have anything to say at this point,” Son told reporters after South Korea’s 1-0 win over China in a World Cup qualifying match at Seoul World Cup Stadium Tuesday night. “I feel a little uncomfortable with the situation. I am going to keep doing my best for Tottenham. I still have terms left on my contract.”

Son is signed through June 2025 with Spurs, but English media have speculated that the North London club could part ways with their South Korean star as part of their rebuilding. Some reports even had Son moving to the Turkish club Fenerbahce and rejoining former Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho.

Son signed his current contract in July 2021, and Spurs reportedly have the option to extend the deal by an extra year.

Last summer, Son was linked to a move to Saudi Arabia on a
lucrative deal. But after a friendly match at home, Son told reporters: “Money is not important to me. The most important thing is to play in a league that I enjoy playing in. I have so much more I want to accomplish in the Premier League.”

Spurs finished this past season in fifth place with 66 points, two back of Aston Villa for fourth and a place in the UEFA Champions League for next season. Son led his club with 17 goals and tied Brennan Johnson for the club-high 10 assists.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

S. Korean-coached Indonesia advance to 3rd round in World Cup qualification


Coached by South Korean tactician Shin Tae-yong, Indonesia have advanced to the third round in the Asian World Cup qualifying campaign for the first time.

Indonesia sealed their spot by defeating the Philippines 2-0 in their final Group F match of the second round at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Thanks to goals by Thom Haye and Rizky Ridho, Indonesia finished second in their group with 10 points, eight behind Iraq.

Finishing one spot below Indonesia were Vietnam, coached by South Korea’s Kim Sang-sik. Vietnam finished in third with six points after a 3-1 loss to Iraq on Tuesday.

From the second round, the top two nations from each of the nine groups qualified for the next phase.

Indonesia have taken big steps since Shin, former head coach for the South Korean men’s national team, took the reins in December 2019 for both the senior and the under-23 men’s squads.

At the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup earlier this year, Indonesia reached the round of 16, their first knock
out appearance ever at the top continental event.

Then in April, Shin took Indonesia to the semifinals of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup for the first time. In the tournament, which doubled as the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament, Indonesia knocked off South Korea on penalties in the quarterfinals and prevented Shin’s native country from qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

Shin has now taken Indonesia deeper than they have ever been in World Cup qualification.

The 2026 World Cup, to be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, will be the first to feature 48 nations, up from the previous 32. With that, the AFC’s quota went from four direct slots with another spot available through a playoff to eight direct slots and another place up for grabs in a playoff.

The likes of South Korea, Japan, Iran and Australia have been frequent AFC representatives at recent World Cups, but the expanded format will give Southeast Asian upstarts, such as Indonesia, a chance.

Also in the second round, Malaysia, with South
Korean coach Kim Pan-gon at the helm, finished in third place in Group D with 10 points, finishing just one point back of Kyrgyzstan.

Malaysia defeated Chinese Taipei 3-1 in their final group match Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur and needed a big win by Oman over Kyrgyzstan later in the day to have a chance to reach the next stage on a tiebreaker. Instead, Oman and Kyrgyzstan ended in a 1-1 draw, as they both moved on to the third round.

North Korea qualified for the third round as the runner-up in Group B, following their 4-1 win over Myanmar on Tuesday. North Korea finished with nine points, with Japan winning the group with 18 points.

In March, North Korea refused to host Japan for their tilt, citing concerns over infectious diseases spreading in Japan. The North asked the match be played at a neutral venue but got instead slapped with a 3-0 loss by forfeit.

In the third round, the 18 qualifiers will be split into three groups of six. The top two teams from each group will punch their tickets to the World Cup.
The third- and fourth-place teams — six in total — will end up in the fourth round. They will then be divided into two groups of three, and the two group winners will qualify for the World Cup.

The two runners-up from the fourth round will face each other in the fifth round, with the winner moving on to the intercontinental playoff for the last AFC ticket.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

S. Korea’s temporary coach takes away happy memories, key lessons from two-match stint


SEOUL, Former K League coach Kim Do-hoon served as South Korea’s caretaker manager for their two World Cup qualifying matches this month, a stint that ended with a 1-0 win over China in Seoul on Tuesday.

Though Kim was only with the team for less than two weeks, the 53-year-old tactician said he is taking away memories that will last a lifetime.

“It’s been an honor to be able to work with these players. I’ve been really happy,” Kim said at his postmatch press conference at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul. “I’ve been impressed with the professionalism and work ethic of these players. The backroom staff worked tirelessly behind the scene, and that was really touching as well.”

South Korea have been without a full-time head coach since Jurgen Klinsmann was fired on Feb. 16, days after the Taegeuk Warriors were eliminated in the semifinals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup. And instead of rushing to name Klinsmann’s replacement, the Korea Football Association (KFA) went with Hwang Sun-hong,
then head coach of the men’s under-23 national team, as the caretaker boss for two World Cup qualifying matches in March.

The KFA then set out to appoint the new coach by early May. But after talks with multiple candidates broke down, the KFA named Kim as the second temporary head coach on May 20. South Korea then gathered for training camp in Singapore on June 2 and beat Singapore 7-0 four days later, before coming home this week for the win over China.

“After getting an offer for this position, I thought long and hard about whether I should take it or not,” Kim said. “I decided I wanted to give back to football for everything it has done for me, especially at a difficult juncture for the national team.”

Kim said he’s only glad to have taken the job, though he doesn’t want the KFA to resort to another caretaker coach again.

“Personally, I was able to identify a lot of things that I have to do when I get to coach a team later,” said Kim, who previously led Incheon United and Ulsan HD FC in the K League an
d Lion City Sailors in Singapore. “But I hope I will be the last caretaker manager for this team. There’s a lot of pressure on this position, and I experienced my share of challenges. But the players were really cooperative and followed my lead.”

Kim said he hoped to see a new, full-time coach who can steer South Korea in the right direction.

“I think we are capable of winning the possession battles and controlling matches,” Kim said. “With the players that are available, I think we have to play a proactive brand of football. In order to maximize our talent, we have to possess the ball and dominate matches.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

PSG midfielder Lee Kang-in delivers again as memories of controversy fade


SEOUL, With each goal he scores, memories of Lee Kang-in’s involvement in in-house fighting four months ago are fading.

Given the lovefest for Lee at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Tuesday, after the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) midfielder scored the lone goal in South Korea’s 1-0 win over China in a World Cup qualifying match, it’s difficult to believe the 23-year-old was the poster boy for everything wrong with South Korean football not so long ago.

In February, South Korea suffered a 2-0 loss to Jordan in the semifinals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup, as their dreams of winning the first Asian crown since 1960 crashed and burned.

In a gut punch to the already-mad fan base, it was later revealed that Lee had been in a scuffle with beloved captain Son Heung-min on the eve of the semifinals in Qatar — over a game of table tennis. Son suffered a dislocated finger in the incident and played the next night with the injured hand taped.

Lee quickly went from a hugely popular player who could do
no wrong to a disruptor of team chemistry before a crucial match.

Lee apologized through social media and in front of cameras at home, and also visited Son in London to make up.

And then came tangible signs that the two players had put their incident behind them. In their second match together after the incident, a World Cup qualifying match against Thailand on March 26, Lee assisted on Son’s goal in a 3-0 win.

Last Thursday, Lee and Son each scored two goals in South Korea’s 7-0 rout of Singapore.

Then Tuesday night, before nearly 65,000 fans, it was Son’s foray into the box that led to Lee’s goal in the 61st minute, with the PSG midfielder pouncing on the loose ball following Son’s initial attempt.

After the ball found the back of the net, Lee jumped straight into the outstretched arms of Son in celebration. After other teammates had their turn congratulating Lee, Son and Lee shared another moment for themselves, with the captain embracing his teammate and patting him on the head.

“Honestly, I don’t r
eally remember what happened after the goal. I was so excited,” Lee said. “All of my teammates were so happy for me. But more than my goal, I am just happy that we won the match.”

Before Lee’s goal, South Korea had difficulty breaking through China’s dogged defense. They needed at least a draw to advance to the next round in the qualification without needing help, while South Korea had already taken care of that business before Tuesday.

“I expected them to be defensive, but I didn’t think they would be this tight,” Lee said. “They did their best, and I respect them.”

Lee now has 10 goals in 29 matches. All 10 goals have been scored in the last 15 matches, an impressive rate for a player known more for playmaking chops than scoring prowess.

That stretch began with a brace against Tunisia in a friendly on Oct. 13 last year. Since then, only one South Korean player has scored more than Lee, and that happens to be Son with 11.

Source: Yonhap News Agency