Shoring up the side’s leaky defence is the immediate priority for South Korea’s new coach Shin Tae-yong, who has promised to do whatever it takes to secure the team’s ninth consecutive World Cup appearance in Russia.
The 46-year-old former international midfielder replaces German Uli Stielike, who was sacked last month in the wake of a poor run of results that left the side’s 2018 World Cup hopes in the balance.
“I know I took this job at a difficult time, but it’s an honour and I want to thank the KFA (Korea Football Association) president, technical committee and officials for giving me this opportunity,” Shin told a news conference on Thursday.
“I’m ready to devote all for this team to reach the World Cup nine straight times.”
With Iran already assured of top spot in Group A, Korea, just a point ahead of Uzbekistan with two games remaining, must hold on to second spot to secure automatic qualification for Russia.
Their campaign has been impeded by a porous defence which conceded 10 goals in eight matches, joint highest in the group, while Iran have maintained nothing but clean sheets so far.
Shin, who was in charge of the Korean team at last year’s Rio Olympics and this year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup at home, hinted he would adopt a safety-first approach in the qualifiers at home to Iran (Aug. 31) and in Uzbekistan (Sept. 5).
“Unlike the Olympic team or the U-20 side, now I can pick the best players in this country,” he said.
“Now we just need to boost the organisation of our defensive teamwork. I think we can build up solid defence.
“For the next two qualifiers, we need to play very carefully and create stable defence. We first should never concede a goal and collect victory, even if we score just one goal.”
The former Seongnam FC coach made it clear that his style would differ from that of his predecessor, including the use of Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min.
“People often say Son plays well with Tottenham but not with the national team,” Shin said.
“I have a plan, which Stielike didn’t use before. Our use of Son and his movement could be different than before.”