Hwang Sun-hong (pictured), the head coach of South Korea’s U-23 men’s national soccer team, has accepted an offer to become interim head coach of the senior national team. It’s a risky move that some fear could end his coaching career.

Hwang could make the leap to the A team’s head coaching role if he can lead his side to a second-round qualifying match for the 2026 North and Central America World Cup next month against Thailand, and then to the Olympic Games in Paris. However, both will have their work cut out for them, and if one of them falters, he’ll have to face a lot of criticism.

As the head coach of the U-23 team, he has no guarantee of qualifying for the Olympic Games. The team needs to finish in the top three at the 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup, which doubles as an Olympic qualifier, to qualify. Fourth place would force a playoff with an African team.

Hwang’s last tournament was the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, where the team lost 0-3 to quarterfinalist Japan. Even with the likes of Lee Kang-In (23, Paris Saint-Germain) and Hong Hyun-Seok (25, Hent), who are also key players for the A team, they were unable to prevent the defeat. As a result, the team was not the top seed in the tournament and was drawn in a tough group with Japan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and China. Even making it out of the group stage is far from assured. If they make it to the quarterfinals, they will face one of Qatar, Australia, Jordan, or Indonesia in Group A, which is a tough draw.

The preparation was not enough. “We didn’t have enough time to get our feet wet with the call-up training,” Hwang said. He will not be available for the March friendly in Saudi Arabia, the final warm-up, because of the World Cup qualifier against Thailand. The rest of the coaching staff will take over on the field, and Hwang will have to return to the U-23 Asian Cup in April after the Thailand tournament.

The task of assembling a full strength Olympic squad is not easy. Overseas players are unavailable during the season, and it’s unclear if Lee Kang-in will be available.

Time is running out for the A team to prepare for Thailand. Hwang has accepted an interim coaching card for the A team without being able to bring his coaching 메이저사이트 staff with him. He must now announce the roster on Nov. 11 before the national team convenes for training on Nov. 18. It’s a daunting task to turn around a demoralized squad that was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup in Qatar and has been plagued by squad discord.

Questions also remain about Hwang’s leadership. In his early years as a club manager, he won K League 1 titles with the Pohang Steelers in 2013 and FC Seoul in 2016, but he was sacked mid-season after falling to fifth in 2017 and sixth in 2018. He briefly managed Yanbian Fooder (China) in the 2019 season before the club was disbanded, then returned to the K League in 2020 as the head coach of second-tier side Daejeon Hana Citizens, but resigned in September of that year after the club finished fifth in K League 2.

There was a lot of concern in the soccer world that Hwang would not get another chance to coach if he failed to win gold at the Hangzhou Asian Games. Even when he was in charge of the age-group national team, the team suffered a 0-3 loss to Japan at the U-23 Asian Cup and a shock 0-1 defeat to China in an exhibition match ahead of the Hangzhou Asian Games. If the team loses even one game in the World Cup qualifying series against Thailand and fails to qualify for the final round of qualifying, or fails to qualify for the Paris Olympics, it could be difficult for him to continue his coaching career.

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