After two spells as “number three”, Afshin Ghotbi has returned for a third term in South Korea. This time however, he is the second-in-command behind new head coach Pim Verbeek.
The faces may be familiar but the situation is not. There is no longer a World Cup on the horizon but rather a chance to build a team from scratch, to lay the foundations of a healthy national set-up.
That future may be starting right now with qualification for the 2007 Asian Cup and upcoming games with Iran and Taiwan to think about but the recent World Cup, Ghotbi’s second with Korea and third overall, is still fresh in everyone’s minds. The resident of Southern California was in the thick of the action during those three intense games against Togo, France and Switzerland that ultimately ended with the Taeguk Warriors narrowly failing to progress to the second round.
The 42 year-old remembers the events of Germany well.” We set a goal of four or five points which we thought was achievable… When you look at it objectively and take all your Data Sgp emotions out of it, we showed well. But you can’t go to a World Cup into a tough group and concede a goal in each first half of the three games and expect to get out of the group.”
A win against Togo in the opening game was an historic first in an overseas World Cup though some parts of the Korean press, and the neutral spectators in Frankfurt, weren’t impressed with the way the team chose to defend its narrow 2-1 lead against the ten-man African team – spending the last minutes of the game choosing to keep the ball rather than attack.
Ghotbi is unrepentant and insists all the staff would do the same again. “Togo was dangerous from the beginning to the end in attack. We had to get three points from that game. Korea had never won a game in a World Cup abroad. Psychologically, those three points were so important.”
The team …