By Kang Seung-woo
Park Seong-hwa will replace Pim Verbeek to lead the Olympic football team in the final qualifying round for the Beijing Olympics. / Yonhap
Busan I'Park manager Park Seong-hwa will fill the sudden vacancy of the South Korean Olympic football team created by Dutch coach Pim Verbeek's resignation.
The Korea Football Association (KFA) announced Friday at its headquarters in Seoul that the 52-year-old manager would take over the command of the U-23 Olympic squad.
The technical committee chairman Lee Young-moo said, ``We have reached a conclusion that Park is the most fit among the four or five candidates for the team eyeing its sixth straight appearance to the Olympics.''
``Park has a good grasp of the Olympic team members as well as leadership and experience. He will be helpful to maintaining the team's consistency for the coming qualifying round.''
``I want to say sorry to Busan I'Park and fans for my departure after 17 days,'' said Park.
``As a matter of fact, managing the Olympic team is a very attractive job. Since players I have coached on the youth team belong to the Olympic squad, I have had interest in the position.
``Former team depended on taking advantage of flanks, which lacks of diversity. So I will stick to a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 formation to solidify midfield for central attacks.''
The final qualifying round of the Beijing Olympics will start this month and Korea will face Uzbekistan on August 22 at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
The organization had trouble choosing between Park and current Olympic team coach Hong Myung-bo, having longstanding meetings with both. Park was chosen for his experience.
Park led South Korea's U-20 team at the U-20 World Cup in 2003 and 2005 and has coached key players on the Olympics squad.
Named the new head coach, he is likely to quit the managing job for Busan.
He seized command of the K-League team last month, ending his seven-year absence from the league and made his debut last Wednesday in the last 16 of the FA Cup, where I'Park beat Daejeon Citizen 2-0.
The manager was a national athlete from 1974 to 1985 and played for Hallelujah and Pohang Steelers from 1983 to 87, becoming the first most valuable player of the K-League.
He started his managing career in 1993 with Yukong, the predecessor of Jeju United, and coached Pohang from 1995 to 2000.
Hong Ousted in Selecting Manager
Inexperience nipped Hong Myung-bo's bid in taking over Pim Verbeek's Olympic squad.
He was the leading contenders for the spot but in the final decision, the technical committee handed Park Seong-hwa the reign of the team.
According to the committee, Park was deterred from becoming manager due to lack of experience
Although the 38-year-old played in four consecutive World Cups from 1990 to 2002, the stint with Verbeek was all of his coaching experience.
He had no chance to lead a team under the Dutch coach and the span was not long enough to succeed it.
The KFA's intention to keep him was also reflected.
``Hong has a bright future in Korean football. If he fails in the qualifying round, it will be a big blow to his career. He had better accumulate his coaching experience for a better future,'' technical committee member Choi Kyoung-sik said in a media interview.
In addition, the ejection he suffered in the match against Japan at the Asian Cup affected his selection.
As a punished player or coaching staff is usually suspended at least one or two games, Hong could not sit on the bench in the opener of the final round despite being named the manager.