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Afshin Ghotbi Believes in Another Miracle for South Korea

The Korea Times
By Cho Jin-seo / Staff Reporter

He remembers all the glory and success he had as Guus Hiddink’s top advisor in 2002. So Afshin Ghotbi is excited to return to South Korea next month as one of two assistant coaches of Dick Advocaat, the new manager of the South Korean national team.

Talking to The Korea Times on Wednesday, the Iranian football coach said that he believes the trio of Advocaat, Pim Verbeek and himself is capable of making another miracle for South Korea in Germany.

“Our objective is always to maximize the performance of each player and produce results,’’ the top-class match analyst said. “My personal goal is always to win the world championships.’’

Ghotbi, who is currently with Los Angeles Galaxy as an assistant coach, also said that the general conditions are better for South Korea now than they were three years ago, even though they have to play abroad in next year’s World Cup.

“The Korean players are better now because of the experiences they had in the 2002 World Cup,’ he said. “Players such as Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo are playing in the highest level of football in European leagues, and they are raising the level of the national team.

“I also believe that K-League is much better. There are so many great young players in the clubs now.’’

Ghotbi made his name as one of the best football strategists in the world during the 2002 World Cup, where he played a crucial role in providing strategic advice and information to Hiddink and his players.

The 42-year-old didn’t leave South Korean football immediately afterward as he stayed on for two more years as assistant coach to the Suwon Bluewings. Such experiences surely will save a great amount of time for Advocaat, who only has less than nine months left until the World Cup.

From his past experiences, Ghotbi knows that fans and the media in South Korea can be cruel and offensive toward foreign coaches. But he was sure that his 57-year-old boss would not have a problem handling the media thanks to his 24-year coaching career.

“The media will always try to influence coaches,’’ Ghotbi said. “But Advocaat, he is a too experienced coach to be influenced by them.’’

Ghotbi said that he was introduced to Advocaat by Verbeek in December, when the two

Dutchmen were coaching Borussia Menchengladbach in Germany. There were discussions to join Advocaat and Verbeek at Borussia, but Ghotbi couldn’t because “the team had different priorities at the time,’’ he said.

“I spent eight days with Advocaat in Germany and I was so impressed by him,’’ the Iranian coach said. “He is very experienced coach, and he is very open-minded to the people who work with him and who support him.’’

He pointed out that the Korean team lacked teamwork even though the individual skills of the players have improved.

“I saw the matches against Sweden and Paraguay last winter (in Los Angeles). I remember them very well. Korean players played with great fighting spirit, but the team lacked organization both offensively and defensively. I thought the players’ roles were not well defined.’’

At the time, the South Korean team was mostly composed of young players from the K-League, and they drew both matches 1-1. Former head coach Jo Bonfrere did manage to bring the team to the World Cup Finals for their sixth consecutive appearance but he had to resign after being hit hard by local media for the team’s unstable play.

Ghotbi will be concluding his work with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sept. 28, as the club has a few key matches in both Major League Soccer and the U.S. Cup in the next two weeks. Ghotbi is expected to be in Korea by Oct. 1 to join Advocaat and Verbeek.

 
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