Ulsan Hyundai's head coach Hong Myung-bo waits ahead of the...

Ulsan Hyundai's head coach Hong Myung-bo waits ahead of the second leg of the AFC Champions League semifinal soccer match against Yokohama F. Marinos in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on April 24, 2024. South Korea appointed Hong as national team head coach for the second time on Sunday, July 7. Credit: AP/Shuji Kajiyama

SEOUL, South Korea — Hong Myung-bo was appointed as South Korea's head coach on Sunday, giving one of the nation's 2002 World Cup stars a second chance at the top job.

Hong succeeded Jurgen Klinsmann and returned to the position he left in July 2014 after a 12-month spell ended in a disappointing World Cup performance.

He was captain of the South Korea team that reached the World Cup semifinals in 2002, when South Korea and Japan co-hosted the tournament.

The 55-year-old Hong will leave Ulsan HD with immediate effect after leading the club to successive K-League championships in 2022 and 2023.

“Ultimately, the ability to bring the team together is the most important aspect,” Korea Football Association (KFA) President Chung Mong-gyu said in a statement announcing the appointment. “It will be up to the coaching staff to handle the tactical side of things.”

The appointment marks the end of a five-month search by the KFA, which fired Klinsmann in February in the wake of a disappointing Asian Cup campaign.

American coach Jesse Marsch was top of the KFA’s shortlist but he took a job with Canada in May. It was reported that David Wagner, the German coach fired by Norwich City after failing to deliver promotion to the English Premier League, and former Greece boss Gus Poyet, were also on the list.

Hong, who led South Korea’s Under-23 team to bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, had seemed to rule himself out of the running after a recent K-League game but now has two months to prepare for the start of the third round of 2026 World Cup qualification.

South Korea kicks off against the Palestinian team on Sept. 5 and then goes on to face Jordan, Oman, Kuwait and Iraq in Group B.

In Asia’s new qualification format, the top two in each of the three six-team groups will confirm their automatic places at the World Cup.

The six teams that finish third and fourth will progress to the fourth round, where there are two more places available.

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