Tuesday, 16 February 2016

OSM - So What is it About Guus?

Hiddink and Abramovich

Those unfamiliar with the Dutch football manager Guus Hiddink must have missed the FIFA 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan where the coach energised the nation by taking South Korea to the semi-finals. In doing so, Ji-sung Park and company topped their group, beating EURO 200 finalist, Portugal, along the way, eliminating Giovanni Trapattoni’s Italy, winning the penalty shootout against Spain in Gwanjgu, then losing 1-0 to Germany in the Seoul World Cup Stadium in the semi-final. 

The reward was huge posters of Hiddink on the streets of the capital, with banners at the Daejeon arena summing up the feeling of 48 million people, with "Hiddink for President. Which could have happened given he was bestowed with honorary Korean citizenship for his footballing feats, with the added perk from Korean Air of free first-class travel for the four years following 2002. 

Not unlike his arrival at Chelsea, his time with Holland or the stint with Australia, Hiddink arrived in Korea viewed as the saviour of the Korean game which he described as "chaotic" in the early days with star players such as Ahn Jung-hwan as "lazy and unfit". Within time he went about his changes using the experience from his days at PSV Eindhoven, where he led the team to its first ever European Cup triumph in 1988. 

Indeed, it was his achievements in the industrial city of Eindhoven with the Philips Sport Vereniging – PSV – that established his winning reputation and helped rank the club as one of the three giants of Dutch football, alongside Ajax and Feyenoord. 

In Korea he based his work on a fundamental philosophy, insisting the younger players treat veterans such as Captain Hong Myong-bo and Yoo Sang-chul as their peers, not their betters. Then on the field of play there were pre-World Cup friendlies against European and South American sides rather than the normal Asian opponents, which helped harden the Korean players. 

Despite a string of early defeats the Korean FA stood by Hiddink, and his tough style, earning the benefits after the national ream reached the semi-final. But it should have been no surprise as Hiddink is no stranger to success. 

Although as a player he was capped by the Netherlands, it is his record in management that stands out, with four straight league titles with PSV Eindhoven and the treble in 1988, managing the Netherlands to the semi-final of the 1998 World Cup; leading South Korea to a fourth place in 2002 FIFA; leading Australia to their best ever finish in the 2006 World Cup; then Russia to the semi-finals of Euro 2008, and Chelsea to an FA Cup in 2009. 

All perhaps unlikely back in 1995 when Hiddink took over his national team filled with talented individuals, but continually racked by internal arguments and feuds, which saw Edgar Davids leave EURO 96 after a row with Hiddink. Two years later further internal conflict was prevented and Holland played the most entertaining football in the France world cup, including the Denis Bergkamp goal in the 89th minute that eliminated Argentina in the quarter finals 2–1 in Marseille. 

In his second spell with PSV, Hiddink won three Dutch league titles (2002–03, 2004–05, and 2005–06), the 2005 Dutch Cup, and the 2003 Dutch Super Cup, with the 2004–05 Champions League season seeing PSV make their first appearance in the semi-final of the new look tournament we know today. This second stint at PSV would make Hiddink the most successful Dutch coach in history, with six Dutch League titles and four Dutch Cups, surpassing the record of the legendary, Rinus Michels. 

In 2005 as manager of Australia, the Socceroo’s qualified on penalties against Uruguay allowing them qualify for the first time since Germany 1974, earning the Dutchman the name "Aussie Guus". However the team eventually went out in the second round to Italy after Fabio Grosso was awarded a controversial penalty eight seconds from the end of normal time. 

In April 2006 Hiddink took over as manager of Russa in a deal worth US$ 2.4 million a year plus bonuses, with an option for another two years. In return for their generosity Hiddink secured qualification for EURO 2008, where the team reach the semi-finals, after a victory against his home land in the quarter finals. It would be no surprise that following the departure of Avram Grant from Chelsea in 2009, the billionaire benefactor of the Russian national team, Ramon Abramovich, saw a role for Hiddink at Stamford Bridge. 

But it was only following the failure of Felipe Scolari at Chelsea that Hiddink came as a temporary replacement until the end of the Premier League season, whilst continuing his duties with Russia. During that time Hiddink took Chelsea to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, where they lost out to eventual winners Barcelona. 

During his time at Chelsea Hiddink only lost once and it was a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. And in his last game as a temporary coach of Chelsea, he won the 2009 FA Cup by beating Everton 2-1. 

When the Turkish Football Federation President Mahmut Özgener and Hiddink held talks in Amsterdam early in 2010, Hiddink agreed to coach Turkey after his contract expired on June 30 with Russia and lead their campaign for EURO 2012. Now after three wins, 2 losses and a draw Turkey are fighting to stay in contention in 3rd place with Germany at the top of the group with twenty-one points from 7 games. Such results suggest that the job is now over in Turkey for Guus. 

Not unlike his time at Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, Real Betis or Valencia, where Hiddink's career has under achieved. Although such moments do exist in the CV, they do tend to be rare. 

That is what Abramovich will be hoping when Guus Hiddink makes his expected return to Stamford Bridge over the coming days. 

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