South Korea axed coach Uli Stielike yesterday after a shock defeat to Qatar left their World Cup qualification hanging in the balance.
The Korea Football Association (KFA) said it chose to part ways with Stielike following a technical committee meeting at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul. But Tuesday's 3-2 reverse in Doha, South Korea's first loss to Qatar in 32 years, left them in danger of missing direct qualification for Russian Federation 2018. The team is now ranked second in Group A with four wins, one tie and three losses, at 13 points.
They got over that disappointment quickly and were unbeaten in the second round of qualifying for World Cup 2018, but they have struggled for consistency in the final section, losing three of their last five matches. Two third-place teams will enter a playoff over two legs for a spot.
Stielike's high point was leading South Korea to the final of the 2015 Asian Cup where it lost 2-1 to Australia after extra-time. Stielike's contract was supposed to run until Korea's elimination at some stage during the upcoming World Cup, assuming it qualified. The 62-year-old former Germany midfielder, who took over on a four-year contract in 2014, had been under pressure after two defeats in four qualifiers going into Tuesday's match.
Lee also tendered his resignation to take the responsibility for the situation. "Stielike said that he respects any decision reached by the technical committee".
Lee said the KFA and the national team will overcome the current crisis and they need to move on to prepare for the remaining two qualifiers.
Perennial World Cup participants out of Asia, Korea Republic's Russian Federation 2018 qualifying campaign has been far from convincing, losing three matches from eight and in a tussle with Uzbekistan for the last automatic qualification spot in Group A. "I think a homegrown manager should fill the position and lead the team", Lee said.
South Korean media have already rolled out possible names for the next head coach, such as Huh Jung-moo, who previously led South Korea to the round of 16 at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and Shin Tae-yong, who recently managed South Korea at the U-20 World Cup at home. "The most important task for the next coach will be to boost the players' morale and building up a new team".