Hong Myung-bo Returns as South Korea’s National Team Coach

South Korea has appointed Hong Myung-bo as their national team head coach for the second time. Hong succeeds Jurgen Klinsmann and returns to the role he left in July 2014 after a disappointing World Cup performance. The 55-year-old, who captained the Korean team to the semifinal of the 2002 World Cup, will leave Ulsan HD with immediate effect. He led the club to successive K-League championships in 2022 and 2023.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) President Chung Mong-gyu emphasized the importance of team unity, stating, “Ultimately, the ability to bring the team together is the most important aspect. It will be up to the coaching staff to handle the tactical side of things.” The appointment concludes a five-month search by the KFA, which dismissed Klinsmann in February after an underwhelming Asian Cup tournament. American coach Jesse Marsch was initially their top choice but accepted a position with Canada in May. Reports indicated that David Wagner, the German coach fired by Norwich City, and former Greece boss Gus Poyet were also considered.

Hong, who led Korea’s U-23 team to bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, had initially seemed to rule himself out of the running. However, he now has two months to prepare for the start of the third round of 2026 World Cup qualification. Korea will begin their campaign against the Palestinian team on September 5th, followed by matches against Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, and Iraq in Group B.

The new qualification format in Asia involves three groups of six teams. The top two finishers from each group will automatically qualify for the World Cup. The teams finishing third and fourth will advance to the fourth round, where two more spots are available.

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