Pim Verbeek Interview

Pim Verbeek was the assistant coach under Guus Hiddink from December 2000 to July 2002 and was an integral part of the staff that helped South Korea reach the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup.

Now, more than three years later, he has returned to the Land of the Morning Calm, this time with Dick Advocaat.

In the meantime, the 49-year-old followed Hiddink to PSV Eindhoven and then coached in Japan and the Caribbean before linking up with Advocaat a year ago in Germany. The duo moved to the United Arab Emirates in July and took over in South Korea at the beginning of October.

The day before he jetted off to Germany and France to check on Korean players, Soccerphile caught up with him at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

You're always so busy, how much of the country do you have chance to see?

I did more in 2001 because we had a whole year. At that time I saw many away games and friends took me and showed me around and I saw a lot of the country. These days, I'm flying around Japan and Korea and don't have time.

And now you're famous.

It's much more difficult now, before it was easy. You saw here (the genial Dutchman was mobbed by spectators and patiently posed for countless pictures) and that happens on the street too. It's very nice but it does make it difficult to do things. I understand that people, like me, have happy memories of 2002.

How is it different being here for a second time?

When I came here in 2001, everything was new, the people, the facilities, the way of playing football. When I arrived here again, it felt like coming home - call me stupid but that's the way it is.

I know most of the people in the KFA and the teams are familiar to me, I know the names and I know where they are and Seoul is not a strange city any more- it makes a big difference.

How has the football changed - the K-League for example?

The biggest difference is the stadiums. Wherever you go, there are beautiful stadiums. OK they are too big- it's difficult to make an atmosphere with 10,000 people. Before most stadiums were old-fashioned with athletic tracks and it was difficult to see the action as you were to far away. Now you feel like you're in a real football league.

How about the players?

It's still the Asian way of football - the first thing they do is try to hit the ball forward and try to find a striker. You know that in Europe, teams try to control the game and from there, try to score goals.

Here they give the ball away often but nobody says anything - in Europe they'll start to get angry. It's something we have to learn and in the World Cup we won't be always able to hit the ball to the strikers.

And Park Chu Young?

I knew him before I came here because you keep in touch with Korean football and I know that he was the Young Asian Player of the Year and was playing for the full team at the age of 19. I saw him in the World Youth Championship in the Netherlands and I was disappointed. I was disappointed about the whole Korean team because I expected much more.

But he had come from two national team games and the pressure was really high on him in the World Youth Championship. When I saw with the national team he is a very normal boy which is good.

In what way were you disappointed?

If you see the best young player in Asia, you expect somebody who is more involved in the game. I think he has to learn that instead of just waiting for his chances.

There were two dangerous crosses today and one he scored and one he was almost there. That is his biggest quality but the question is, is that enough for the World Cup?

He has to improve the rest of his game. When he's scoring a goal every game and everyone likes him, maybe he thinks that's enough. I hope he doesn't feel that way because if he does then we will tell him it isn't enough to play in Europe because it's my feeling that everyone wants to play in Europe.

Advocaat said he was disappointed in the national team players when they play for their K-league clubs.

Yes, you expect more from them. He was right to say that, we expect more from those players - of course Park Chu Young is only 19 and we shouldn't expect too much. Advocaat was disappointed that they were not working too hard and waiting for their chances- it's not enough.

What were your thoughts on your first game with Iran on October 12?

We hadn't been here two weeks. The Korean Football Association (KFA) sent us 20 DVD's of previous games -so we had an idea but it's better to train with the players. We had a very good training camp - we trained twice a day. We were really impressed with the commitment of the players.

It was a game with an almost-full stadium and a goal so early was a great way to start. It was an ideal moment to score a goal for the fans and the players. Iran are a strong team and the second half it could have been 1-1 but we scored again and won 2-0.

We learned a lot about the players during the game.

That was the first win for a while after a poor summer with previous coach Jo Bonfrere, how aware were you of the problems?

Not more than the results. Of course we heard that the fans and players had lost faith in the coaching staff and that's what happened. I think Bonfrere had that same feeling. As a coach if you have the idea that the players don't trust you any more and the people around you don't have the confidence in you to make them better then it is time to go.

You said you were interested in the position when it became vacant?

I knew that as soon as Bonfrere left that my name was circulating around. I was really interested to come back but I also know that countries like this, when they go to the World Cup, they probably need somebody with more World Cup experience.

If Advocaat was to leave after the World Cup - would you think about staying on and taking over?

I'm impressed with the number and quality of young players here. I like the country, I like Japan and I like Korea so for me that wouldn't be a real problem but at the moment we're focused on the World Cup and we'll see what happens after.

What are the main differences between working with Hiddink and Advocaat?

The main difference is that I had never worked with Hiddink before we came here. We had to find the right balance between my duties and his responsibilities but after a few months, it was perfect. They have a different character, Hiddink is more of a person who thinks and then takes action where Advocaat goes immediately and follows his instinct.

Maybe Advocaat is more Korean?

I agree with that totally- and he's started to understand that it's different working here than Europe and that's a good thing. It's a different culture; the way that a coach deals with and approaches the players has to be different than Germany, Scotland or Holland.

I told him that before that his way of management has to be different. The good thing about coaches like that is that they adapt very quickly.

You being an assistant must have been a big plus for the KFA when deciding to hire Dick Advocaat?

Yes, we were together in Dubai and in Germany. The KFA knew that he was interested and available, they heard it from me, also, so it wasn't so difficult for them. The KFA also knew that if I was working with Advocaat then he must be a good coach!

How did your former employers, the UAE feel about it?

The situation was clear - we made a contract in July where we could leave any time and they could send us away without any financial compensation. We took that risk and we knew that if they didn't like us after four, five or six months - they could fire us.?Of course we never imagined when we went that in two months' time we'd be going to Korea. Nobody expected that we should leave so early and neither did we. We had our targets for the UAE in 2007 but when the possibility comes for the World Cup in 2006 - then you go.

Of course, they didn't like it, they understood but didn't like it and we understood that they didn't like it. We have no problem with the people there and Advocaat immediately made the gesture that we should pay the money that we had been paid back to them, so it wasn't that we were going there for a few months and then running away. We are still on speaking terms - they did well for us but we couldn't refuse Korea and the World Cup.

What is a realistic target for the World Cup?

I think every coach has to go out and win it - we will try to do the same. We can't say that we'll go for the second round - we must go for the highest possible. OK, if we are in the first round with Brazil and France then it will be more difficult but anything is possible in football.

We can't say that we'll be the number 4 again. We need luck like we had in 2002 but we also need 100% commitment from the players.

Not having home advantage will make it more difficult, but is there anything else that will do so too?

In 2002 we had the players together for five months before the WC- that's a big difference. We played 15 games before the WC started, OK we didn't have the European or Japanese based players but we still had the team together. We don't have that now but we knew that before we came.

Now coming to Korea is seen as a fantastic job but people thought that in 2001 it was the end of the world. Everybody in Europe thought 'what are you doing over there?'

Is it a benefit having more players based in Europe these days, as you see those players much less?

For me it's OK because I know those players but for Advocaat it will take more time for him to know them. Players like Ahn Jung Hwan, Cha Du Ri and Seol Ki Hyeon - I know them and probably they'll be better than four years ago as they have played 3 or 4 years now in Europe. But it's still an advantage, playing for Spurs, Wolves, Germany or France is good for the players.

Were you surprised that Park Ji Sung went to Manchester United?

Yes, because the Premier League is one of the biggest in the world, but I saw him last year in most of his games and in the Champions League he was absolutely fantastic. I can understand that everybody was interested in him. If you get to the semi-finals of the Champions League than you know that the whole of Europe is watching you. He's 24 and a bargain - $7million. I can also understand that Lee Young Pyo left too.. Hiddink had more problems with him because he didn't want to lose him.

Now Hiddink is the coach of Australia, you could meet in the World Cup?

It's possible (laughs). He knows the strong and weak points of the Korean players but we could also meet the Netherlands.

Who knows we could meet Bonfrere. For him it's a big disappointment not to go to the World Cup. I can understand, as every coach wants to go there.

The only thing that I don't understand about Bonfrere is that he's quoting Advocaat of things he never said [ Bonfrere was angry that Advocaat reportedly said at a press conference that he would rather be like Hiddink than Bonfrere]. I was at every press conference, everywhere, I never heard Advocaat say things like that. It's not fair for him to blame Advocaat or me.

Bonfrere said in September that you didn't know enough about Korean football to get the vacant position.

I know everything about Korean football. I never said anything about him, I only said I was surprised about the results. I didn't say anything about him because I know it was difficult for him after the World Cup. It's difficult for us too, journalists like yourself always compare now and the World Cup. But we don't see that as a problem but as an opportunity. We have quality players but we still don't have a team yet.

In November the team plays Sweden and then Serbia and Montenegro, was there any special reason those teams were chosen?

Because they qualified for the World Cup - we want to play against teams going to the World Cup like Iran. We can see what we have to improve because it's nice to win against Iran, a good and important result, but we saw a lot of things that we have to improve.

One criticism often levelled at the KFA is that compared to other countries, it organizes very few games away from Korea.

Yes. In the World Cup we'll play away from Korea - that's the biggest difference between 2002. However, I think there is a financial aspect. You get more money from playing at home with 60,000 people buying tickets. It's good because we can have the players here and train here. If you travel away - it takes time and there's jetlag. We want to spend as many hours as possible with the team.

But we will try to get some matches in January and February.

Who will win the World Cup, if not South Korea?

Aaah - we always say the same teams. I was impressed with Brazil in the Confederations Cup in June. Argentina are good. France is coming back, as are Italy and with Germany you never know. Of course, I saw Germany here in 2002 and they got a lot of criticism about how they played but they still reached the final.

Asian countries always want the team to win. Advocaat said it is important to win games but at the moment it's more important to find the right layers and the right system. Doing both would be perfect.