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South Korea
12:00 PM UTC Jun 18, 2018
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3:00 PM UTC Jun 18, 2018
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6:00 PM UTC Jun 18, 2018
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Stielike seeks to close gap

South Korea
 By John Duerden

Hong Myung-bo resigns after poor WC

After intense scrutiny following South Korea's exit from the World Cup, Hong Myung-bo announced his resignation on Thursday.

It has been a painful few weeks for South Korean football. First, the Taeguk Warriors collect just one point at the World Cup, and then they return home and it really starts to go wrong.

It all led to this: On Thursday morning, less than two weeks after the team exited Group H with a defeat to Belgium, coach Hong Myung-bo resigned in Seoul.

The man who delivered bronze at the 2012 Olympics, offered to resign as soon as the team's tournament ended but his employers at the KFA refused to accept it. "If I had resigned then, I could have avoided a lot of criticism," reflected the captain of the 2002 World Cup team in a news conference in which he also apologized to the nation.

Since the early exit, the situation subsequently developed and by the end, there was a sense that there was nothing else that Hong could do. Things couldn't continue like this.

One point from three games is always going to bring criticism, even to a coach appointed less than a year before the tournament. But it wasn't just that. If performances had been at least mediocre rather than very poor, all this may not have happened. But it wasn't just that either.

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What started as disappointment, turned to anger as fans felt that nobody in Korean football was prepared to take responsibility for what transpired in Brazil.

There was criticism of the coach before it all started and it was inevitable that concern over selections would become something more if the team did not perform. Hong was accused by some of being more interested in which university his favourite players went to than their talent on the pitch.

What else, asked these critics, could explain his persistence in picking Park Chu-young, the Arsenal misfit who was barely fit and rarely played, than the fact they went to the same Korea University, a school of learning prominent in the country's football history?

Going with Yun Suk-young at left-back, another who struggled for playing time in England, over Park Joo-ho, coming off a good Bundesliga season with Mainz, was another example.

Park and Yun were part of the Olympic team, whose success had made Hong's appointment to the senior job inevitable at some point, but had not done much since.

Neither player impressed and the same could be said of another of the 2012 team that Hong stuck with -- goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong. Both Jung and Park were dropped for the final game against Belgium but by then it was too late. As feared, the defence collapsed against Algeria and the World Cup was all but over.

When Jung posted a picture of himself with duty-free shopping on the way home on social media -- fans were not impressed. That was just a taste of what was to come.

As the team touched down at Incheon International Airport, they were greeted by a hail of candy, an insult in Korean culture, to the visible shock of the players.

Hong gave a quick apology and then said he was tired and would take time to think about things. The media and fans, some of which had also made the long trip back from South America, though in less luxurious fashion, expected a little more.

Hong's tactics -- and specifically his squad selection -- drew criticism post-tournament.

Shortly after, the deputy head of the KFA, Huh Jung-moo, the man who led the team to the second round in 2010, announced that the organisation were backing their man for the remainder of his contract.

He didn't say much more than that. Again, fans expected more. The ensuing silence from the KFA suggested that the body was hoping that the anger would eventually subside yet created a vacuum into which indignation flowed.

Earlier this week, a report claimed that on May 15, Hong was completing the purchase of an expensive new apartment just south of Seoul. It wouldn't have been an issue had results been better but buying property in the final stages of World Cup preparation further angered the already angry.

For Hong, the media getting involved in his private life was the final straw or perhaps the get-out he wanted, and he resigned. After everything, it was probably the right decision.

Hong had showed promise and was an inexperienced coach put in a  difficult situation from the KFA, less than a year before the tournament started. He failed in Brazil but Korea has chopped and changed coaches enough in the past to know that a little patience could be a good thing.

It had become increasingly difficult for him to carry on. Had Hong and the KFA worked hard to communicate with the public on their return home, to explain decisions, talk about what went wrong and what would be done next, it could have turned out differently -- even if there is no guarantee of that.

What is for sure is that the silent treatment made things worse. Fans were losing faith in Hong and his authority was diminished. Had he carried on and selected a certain player or two in September friendlies, it could have become ugly -- not the ideal way to prepare for the Asian Cup in January.

It is unclear as to who will be in charge for that tournament. All is chaos at the moment in Korean football, a situation that had become a little too familiar in recent years.