SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea are searching for a new opponent for an Oct. 10 friendly date after Tunisia pulled out of the fixture for “internal reasons”, the Korea Football Association (KFA) said on Monday.
The Koreans, who booked their place at a ninth straight World Cup finals earlier this month, have a friendly organised against 2018 hosts Russia in Moscow on Oct. 7 and had been due to play the Tunisians three days later in Switzerland.
Local media reported that the KFA were now trying to line up Morocco as a replacement for Tunisia, who are scheduled to play a key World Cup qualifier against Guinea on Oct. 7.
South Korea’s friendly against Russia is attracting attention at home following reports that Guus Hiddink, who coached the team to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals, will meet up with current coach Shin Tae-yong at the match.
The Koreans sacked Uli Stielike in June after a series of poor results and limped through the remainder of qualifying with Shin at the helm.
Hiddink, who was given honorary South Korean citizenship after guiding the 2002 side to their best World Cup finish, said earlier this month he was willing to return in an advisory role to help the side prepare for the finals in Russia.
Many Korean fans, however, have been calling for him to replace Shin as coach, hoping the 70-year-old can turn the team’s fortunes around. The KFA have made it clear they want Shin to be in charge at the finals next summer.
Shin said on Monday he was open to Hiddink’s help, though only if he had Korean football’s best interests at heart.
“Hiddink is a legend in South Korean football,” Yonhap news quoted him as saying at a news conference. “I wouldn’t hesitate for a second if he wants to work with the national team.”
Shin added, however, that Hiddink’s motives would have to be clear, that he would be doing this for the development of Korean football and to improve the team ahead of the 2018 World Cup, not for any personal gain.
Hiddink, who also managed Russia from 2006 to 2010, has been out of top-level coaching since an interim stint at Premier League side Chelsea in 2016.
Also on Monday, Shin named a 23-man squad comprising only foreign-based players for next month’s friendly matches.
Swansea City’s Ki Sung-yueng is set to return to the national side for the first time since a World Cup qualifier against Qatar in June when he sustained a knee injury that required surgery.
The South Korea captain has yet to make an appearance in the Premier League this season but is reportedly back in full training.
Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly