2014 FIFA World Cup
Previous Clubs/Countries: South Korea U20s; South Korea U23s
Honours: Olympic bronze medal, 2012
There are few Asian players who can boast anything like the career that Hong Myong-Bo had. If his time as a coach comes close to matching former exploits then South Korean fans are in for a treat.
Not only did the Eternal Libero, the coolest of cool centre-backs, appear in four consecutive World Cups, in his final appearance on the global stage he captained the Taeguk Warriors to the semifinals. With leadership qualities clear for all to see, it was not a surprise when Hong, who hung up his boots as a Los Angeles Galaxy player in 2004 following stints in the K-League as well as Japan, decided to enter the coaching field.
He took it slowly. In 2005, he joined Dick Advocaat's coaching staff for the national team ahead of the 2006 World Cup, which provided vital experience of an international tournament for a man who provided local knowledge for the coach and comfort and advice for the players. After the Dutchman left, he was succeeded by compatriot Pim Verbeek and Hong stayed on for the 2007 Asian Cup, his last act watching a third/fourth place playoff win over Japan, though he had to do so from the stands in Palembang as he had been red carded after protesting too much -- his quiet demeanour masks a fierce determination to win.
In 2009, he took the U20 team to the quarterfinal of the Under-20 World Cup and then took control of the Olympic team for 2012. The tournament is a big deal Asia, second only to the World Cup itself. Throughout qualification, the new man built a club-like atmosphere among his squad and there was no doubt that his was a happy camp.
And so it proved to be in England. Korea probably should have defeated eventual gold medal winners Mexico in an opening match that finished goalless and deserved better than a 3-0 semifinal defeat at the hands of Brazil, with two penalty decisions going against them at crucial times, yet perhaps it was meant to be as that paved the way for a bronze medal playoff against Japan.
In itself, the match was huge for these bitter rivals yet there was something else for the Korea squad. A win did not only mean a medal but the much greater prize of exemption from a 21-month military service, a huge deal for any young man and a major barrier for successful careers.
Few teams have ever been under such pressure -- a medal match against your biggest rival on the world stage and much more besides. Yet Hong played it cool as always and the aggression, and there was plenty of that, was controlled, for the most part as Korea ran out deserved 2-0 winners.
Subsequently, the only question was surrounding Hong and the senior team and was a case of when and not if. After a six-month assistant spell with Guus Hiddink in Russia and Anzhi Makhachkala, he answered the national team's call on July 1, 2013.
Korea had qualified for the World Cup, just, but under caretaker Choi Kang-Hee, performances had been poor and the football worse. Morale was low and time was short. He started with the East Asian Cup at the end of July. Korea played well but just couldn't score, drawing with Australia and China and then losing to Japan.
Friendly results since have been mixed but it has all been about trying to get the team playing the way he wants with the clock ticking away.
Strengths: Hong still has legendary status, players respond to that and he knows them well. Has an international background compared to most Korean coaches and has huge playing experience to draw upon.
Weaknesses: Still lacks experience and is perhaps too loyal to his former Olympic protégés. Has not yet shown much sign of tactical flexibility or solving Korea's goalscoring issues and has never really been criticised at home. When it comes, that could be hard to handle.
Career High: Leading South Korea to bronze at the 2012 Olympics.
Career Low: Not much to go on yet but failing to win a game at the recent East Asian Championship.
Tactics: A fan of the 4-2-3-1 with the fast and skilful wingers who like to get around the defence. Korea are not going to be especially adventurous under Hong, whose game is based on a solid defence and very fast counter-attack although he has gone strikerless on occasion.
Quote: "Our aim is to play the Korean way with speed, skill and spirit and while we respect every team we play, we know that we don't have to fear anyone." Hong Myung-Bo has a clear idea of how he wants his side to play.
Trivia: He was named by Pele as one of the greatest 125 living players in 2004.
Words: John Duerden