Shipwrecked South Korean soccer coach Hwang Sun-hong takes the reins

“I will do my best and work hard to get South Korean soccer back on track.”

Hwang Sun-hong, 56, head coach of the South Korean men’s national soccer team and U-23 coach, has taken over as interim head coach and vowed to work hard to get South Korean soccer back on track.

The Korea Football Association’s National Strength and Conditioning Committee held its third meeting on Sunday afternoon and announced the appointment of Hwang as interim head coach of the U-23 national team for a two-game series against Thailand in March in the Asian qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup North America.

Hwang will take charge of the Taegeuk Warriors for two matches against Thailand during the March A-match period (March 18-26), as well as the third and fourth matches of the 2026 North and Central American World Cup Asia Second Qualifiers (March 21-26).

“I will do my best and prepare hard to get Korean soccer back on track,” Hwang said in a statement via the Korea Football Association.

The idea is for an interim coach to take charge of a shipwrecked national team that lost its captain following the sacking of Jürgen Klinsmann. For the time being, Hwang will be facing a crucial stretch of games in March and April. Initially, the Football Association and the Power Enhancement Committee had planned to appoint a permanent coach.

However, given the urgency of the situation, they decided to go with an interim coach and made an urgent request to Hwang. At a briefing held at the Football Hall on the 27th, Jeong Jung-sung, chairman of the Power Enhancement Committee, said, “The first priority was Hwang. After the second meeting, we communicated with the association, and on the afternoon of the 25th, we offered Hwang the interim head coaching position. Coach Hwang asked for time to think about it, and finally, yesterday (26th), he replied that he would accept the interim position,” he said, explaining the final selection process.

Hwang said he made the decision after careful consideration of the request from the federation and the NSC, as well as the loss of his current head coach and the crucial World Cup qualifiers ahead. “Korean soccer is in a difficult situation, and when the KFA asked me to cooperate with them, I had a hard time deciding,” Hwang said, “but I thought I should help them a little bit in this difficult situation, so I made a decision after much deliberation.”

Hwang will take charge of the senior national soccer team, which will play a two-game series against Thailand in March, followed by back-to-back matches at the 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup in Qatar in April, the final Asian qualifier for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. South Korea will need to finish in the top three in those tournaments to qualify directly for Paris. It’s a tough schedule that could double the pressure.

Initially, Park Hang-seo, the former Vietnam coach, was among the favorites for the job, but there were a number of circumstances. First of all, the country has until March 3 to register its coach with FIFA, so it had to choose someone who could be appointed immediately. Since the last meeting changed the route to an interim coach instead of a full-time coach, there were many expectations that the interim coach would be a field player rather than the current leader.

The U-23 national team is aiming to qualify for its 10th consecutive Olympic Games. However, their path to the quarterfinals will not be easy as they are in a group of death at the U-23 Asian Cup with Japan, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). If they don’t finish in the top two in their group, they won’t make it to the quarterfinals. Even if they make it to the 토토사이트 quarterfinals, they need to finish in the top three to advance directly to the Olympic Games, and if they finish fourth, they will have to play a playoff against an African team.

Given the pressure, many observers thought it would be unreasonable to ask Hwang to do a “double job” and lead the team through the World Cup qualifiers and Olympic qualifiers back-to-back. However, the KFA’s decision to select an interim coach means that the success of the most important events for Korean men’s soccer in March and April will be in Hwang’s hands.

Chung also recognized this, saying in a press conference on the 27th that “I will take full responsibility as the chairman” in the event of a negative outcome, adding that “Coach Hwang has been in charge of the team for a year and a half before the Hangzhou Asian Games and has been evaluated as having sufficient capabilities.”

Chung added: “I think the (Saudi) friendlies are a final fitness check. We decided that Hwang could handle both sides of the ball, so we offered him the job.”

As a result, Hwang will take on the role of interim coach, giving the team time to go through the process and hire a permanent coach before the second World Cup qualifier in June. “We will appoint a full-time coach at least by early May so that we can prepare for the second World Cup qualifier in June. From the next meeting, we will continue to discuss the selection of the next head coach from a longer-term perspective,” said Chung.


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