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(LEAD) Nat'l football federation likely to sack beleaguered coach soon

All News 14:00 June 14, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 10-14)

SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- The national football federation is likely to sack beleaguered men's head coach Uli Stielike this week in light of the team's shocking loss to Qatar, its senior official said Wednesday.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) is scheduled to hold a meeting of its technical committee on Thursday at the National Football Center in Paju, just north of Seoul. It will come after 43rd-ranked South Korea dropped to No. 88 Qatar 3-2 in Doha in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup late Tuesday (local time).

Though the committee has set up the meeting ostensibly to go over the team's latest match, Stielike's immediate future will likely dominate the agenda. The German-born coach has been in hot water for months as the team has continued to falter.

Technical director Lee Yong-soo traveled with the team to Doha and he may well change the meeting's schedule after he returns to South Korea later Wednesday, according to sources.

In Group A of the ongoing qualifying round, South Korea are still in second place, the last automatic qualifying spot, with 13 points from four wins, a draw and three losses. But they're only one point ahead of Uzbekistan with two matches remaining.

The top two teams from each of the two groups will advance directly to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Two third-place teams must go through playoffs for their final chance.

South Korea, chasing their ninth consecutive World Cup appearance, will host Iran on Aug. 31 and face Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Sept. 5 to close out the qualifying stage.

A high-ranking official with the KFA acknowledged that Stielike has forced its hands with yet another subpar match.

"We're just holding on to second place, and the general feeling around the KFA is that even if we do qualify for the World Cup, we won't be so competitive if we play the way we have," the official said.

Stielike, who took over the team in September 2014, is the longest-tenured head coach in the men's national team history. He has a record of 27 wins, four draws and seven losses.

Stielike guided the country to a runner-up finish at the 2015 Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup. South Korea had a perfect record in the second round of the World Cup qualification from June 2015 to March 2016, reeling off eight wins while scoring 27 goals and giving up none.

In 2015, South Korea lost just once while picking up 16 wins and three draws and giving up just three goals all year.

During that run of success, Stielike was hailed by fans as "God-tielike," but the same fans that so revered him have turned their backs on him on some lethargic efforts of late.

The call for Stielike's head further intensified after South Korea fell to China 1-0 on the road and eked out a 1-0 win over Syria at home in March.

The KFA gave Stielike a vote of confidence in April. But immediately after his latest loss, Stielike said in Doha that his future on the bench was out of his hands and he'd only discuss the matter further once he returned to South Korea.

South Korea men's football head coach Uli Stielike wipes off sweat during the team's 3-2 loss to Qatar in their World Cup qualifying match at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on June 13, 2017. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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