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By ESPN Staff

Australia pin 2010 hopes on Dutchman Verbeek

SYDNEY, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Dutchman Pim Verbeek has been handed the task of leading Australia to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

The 51-year-old quit as South Korea coach after July's Asian Cup and had previously worked as assistant to compatriot and former Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink with the Korean national team.

'Football fans can rest assured that the FFA has worked diligently to secure a coach with the qualities and enthusiasm that will give the Socceroos every chance of success,' FFA chairman Frank Lowy said in a statement.

'Pim Verbeek has a vast range of experience ... gained over 25 years in coaching, including several stints in Asia, and we believe he is the right man for the job of leading the Socceroos to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.'

The announcement ended Australia's 17-month search for a permanent replacement for Hiddink, who led the Socceroos to the second round of the 2006 World Cup before quitting to coach Russia.

Graham Arnold was appointed on a temporary basis to take Australia to this year's Asian Cup but FFA stepped up its search for a replacement after they were knocked out in the quarter-finals.

The Australians had looked to have found their man when Dutchman Dick Advocaat agreed to accept the job but he changed his mind last month after being offered a new contract to stay with his Russian club Zenit St Petersburg.

Verbeek, who has coached clubs in the Netherlands and Japan, served as assistant to Hiddink during South Korea's shock run to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals.

He took over as head coach in 2005, guiding the Koreans to third place at the Asian Cup before announcing his resignation.

'I am looking forward to the challenge ahead of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and I am committed to also helping to develop the game in Australia,' Verbeek said.

'I intend to become as familiar as possible with football in Australia and I will be based in Australia and intend to relocate immediately.'

Australia qualified for the 2006 World Cup through Oceania but ditched that confederation to join Asia in the hope of securing more regular meaningful competition as well as an easier path to future tournaments.

The Socceroos were handed a tough draw in the 2010 qualifiers, however, placed in the same group as China, Iraq and Qatar.

Only the top two advance to the next stage and Verbeek faces his first competitive match in February.

'Finding the coach who we felt would be able to guide us through a very challenging FIFA World Cup qualifying path has been our number one priority and we are delighted that Pim Verbeek will be the man to lead the national team,' FFA chief executive officer Ben Buckley said.