It is already four months since South Korea exited the World Cup at the first round. The-then coach Dick Advocaat watched with frustration as his team was defeated 2-0 in Hanover by Switzerland.
As the referee Horacio Elizondo, not the most popular Argentine with most Koreans (or with Wayne Rooney and Zinedine Zidane), blew the whistle to signal the end of the Taeguk Warriors・World Cup dreams for another four years, he also called time on the Dutchman’s short reign in East Asia.
Advocaat headed east to take control on October 1 2005 after predecessor and compatriot Jo Bonfrere resigned in August and after the World Cup ended, he moved back west to take the helm of Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg.
Why did you leave Korea? Why didn’t you stay after the Keluaran Sgp World Cup?
I had the opportunity to go into club management. Apart from a short period, I had spent the last four years with national teams and I just wanted to return to a club.
I had a really, really great time in Korea ・honestly. I enjoyed it but I missed a little bit the daily concerns, worries, work. I had an opportunity to build a new team here and that was the main reason.
But you never know, after this maybe I will return to international coaching.
Did you decide to go to Petersburg before the World Cup?
I decided after because I had some doubts but I am really enjoying it and I thought that it was a good thing to do.
The Korean Football Association wanted you to continue?
They had to give me an answer before a certain date but I don’t think it would have been a problem staying on because the results were excellent and everybody was happy.
Do you miss Korea?
Now I really miss Korea, now I realise what a great time I had there. I miss it a lot. These days I miss the company with Pim (Verbeek), Afshin (Ghotbi), (Hyong Myung) Bo and a lot of people there.
We talked a lot about life, about football, about Korea and about the team. The way we worked with the national team was really great. Now I have different opportunities and challenges as well.
About a month after the World Cup the KFA technical committee had a public review of the World Cup. They paid you some compliments ・training and leadership among other things. They also criticised some aspects of the World Cup. One was the sudden change to a three-man defence for the Togo after spending most of the build-up with a four-man defence.
Well, I did hear about it. I was surprised at the criticism. For us, it was all about winning. We thought that it was better to play against Togo with three. We discussed it and at the final moment decided that it was better to play with three to get the result we need.
We knew that we could do it because we had played it before. We knew that we could play with four or three and at that time we thought it was better to play with three.
Another criticism was that the team was too defensive, too negative in the last ten minutes against Togo when it was 2-1 against ten men・
That’s what I don’t understand – at all. We were lucky to be winning in that game because it was not our planned game. We came back from 1-0, it was not what we planned.
Against France and against Switzerland we played much, much better than we played against Togo. At least we were winning 2-1.
On the other hand people forget that we didn’t know at that time the other scores. The other teams had the advantage to play later than us. Even Switzerland, who knew that they had to score an extra goal, could only score in the last minute.
So, in both ways, I totally disagree with the KFA. Criticism is OK, I have no problem with that so we can make each other better. I haven’t got a problem if they criticize me about a lot of things but not about the Togo game because in that game we came back from 1-0 down, we were not winning the game.
On the bench, we were really happy that we were winning. If we start to take risks then it can be 2-2.
If you see the risks we took against France and Switzerland – not a lot of coaches would do what we did in both games- by attacking in both games.
How did it make you feel to be criticised in that way?
I don’t have a problem with criticism but they should also tell it to me.
Did they tell you at any time?
No, they didn’t
What about the France and especially the Switzerland game?
Until the moment Switzerland scored the first goal and it was an excellent goal – until that time we were equal. Both sides were attacking and both sides had periods in control.
In the second half we outplayed them – well, perhaps outplayed is a bit strong – but we were the much better side and deserved much more than losing 2-0.
In that way, the players from 2002 were not at their best form in the tournament.
Park Ji-sung, for whatever reason, didn’t bring the same things that we know he could bring. Park was a key player of our preparation – and nobody knows this – he was essential in our plans to start with four at the back because then he can play as an attacking midfielder.
But when he came we saw that physically he couldn’t handle that, then we had to change the system.
He came with an injury, he couldn’t train at the beginning. He was on and off and physically he wasn’t in the best shape. I still really like him as a player because I know what he can do but he couldn’t do it because of physical problems and, on paper, he was our key player.
What about Ahn Jung-hwan? – he was a substitute in all three games.
Yes, we started with three because we thought it had the right balance and everybody would know what they had to do. So the central position was between Ahn and Cho Jae-jin. Cho is more suited to the system, Ahn is a deeper striker and more suited to the 4-4-2 system. I still think Ahn did really well for the team when he came on.
Would you consider taking him to St. Petersburg? He’s a free agent.
Not at the moment – we have to try more Russian players. I believe in Ahn but I would have to look at him over a long time and I can’t take that risk.
After the World Cup did you have any other offers?
Yes I did but you know me well enough to know that I won’t say. This was the best opportunity for me. I am not going to say 的 could have gone to Blackburn・ There are enough other coaches doing that.
You took Lee Ho and Kim Dong-jin with you. Why those two players?
I really liked both not only as football players but also their temperament and qualities. Secondly, their personalities of those players are well suited to playing in Europe and Russia. I have made the right choice as both of them are doing very well.
Recently you picked Lee Ho on the left side of midfield…
Yes I did. I bought a player in Ricksen is his name. He’s a very strong player, he played for Glasgow Rangers so I moved Lee Ho to the left side.
Do you think he’ll play there for the foreseeable future?
I don’t know, I don’t know. The left side is a little bit more difficult for him than the right side but he has the talent to do well there.
How was 2006 World Cup different than your previous experiences?
The people around me made it so comfortable and enabled the team to perform well. As I said, I really enjoyed my time in Korea.
Unfortunately it didn’t happen but I think we were very, very close and we deserved more than losing 2-0 to Switzerland. I was very proud about beating Togo and drawing against France which will not happen too many times.
The Switzerland game could have gone either way and the way in which we played in the second half, we deserved something from the game.
Is there anything you would do differently if you had the chance again?
As I said, we wanted to use a four-man defence to put Park behind the striker but unfortunately that didn’t work out because of his physical strength.
We worked really hard to get excellent results in Korea, good results at the World Cup and we were so close to reaching the last sixteen.
We took a lot of risks to go on the tour at the start of the year. We went away to face Finland, Croatia, Costa Rica and Mexico and travelled so much. We did lose but mostly we won. I was very, very happy with everything.
What about the fans?
For me, it was such a great experience. I really admire the fans of Korea and the way they always got behind us. Even in the Switzerland game when we were losing , that really brought a lot of emotions.