x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Coach is on crest of wave

Huh Jung-moo, the South Korea coach, could barely conceal his joy after guiding South Korea to their seventh consecutive World Cup finals appearance.

DUBAI // Huh Jung-moo, the South Korea coach, could barely conceal his joy after guiding South Korea to their seventh consecutive World Cup finals appearance. The 54-year-old danced around the field like an excited teenager after the Taegeuk Warriors claimed one of the two automatic berths from Group B of the final round of Asian qualifying with a 2-0 win over the UAE. The South Koreans booked their spot for 2010 South Africa with two games still to play thanks to first-half goals from Park Chu Young and Ki Sung Yueng at the Al Maktoum Stadium.

Huh reignited South Korea's run of World Cup finals appearances as a player, scoring the winner against Japan in the final game of qualifying for the 1986 World Cup, ending a 32-year drought since their first appearance at the 1954 World Cup. As head coach, he then prepared the team for the 2002 World Cup on home soil, before handing over the reins to Guus Hiddink, who took the team to the semi-finals.

Huh hopes he will be at the helm in South Africa next year after missing out the last time. "I did not have the chance to be in charge of the team at the 2002 World Cup, but I think Hiddink did a great job for Korean football," he said. "For now, I am very happy that we have qualified. At the same time I feel a heavy responsibility to prepare the team for the 2010 World Cup. "We and the Football Association will do everything possible to achieve success in South Africa."

North Korea, who are second in the group with 11 points, and Saudi Arabia, on 10 points, will battle it out for the second qualifying berth. @Email:arizvi@thenational.ae