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"Croatian veteran coach is virtually confirmed."

China's "Q-Q Dotcom" reported on the 23rd (Korea time), "The new head coach of the national soccer team has been virtually confirmed as coach Ivankovic. It is expected to be officially announced within two days as the appointment of a new coach by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) is beginning to count."

Leading journalist Wang Tao also said on social media, "I think Ivankovic is almost confirmed. In fact, I think Choi Kang-hee is the most ideal, but the possibility is too slim." Already, Chinese media are considering Ivankovic's appointment as a given.

After the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Qatar Asian Cup, China has concluded accompanying Aleksandar Jantkovic. The CFA has decided not to extend his contract with him, whose contract has expired.

The elimination of the group stage at the Asian Cup for the first time in 13 years was the decisive factor. China failed to score a single goal and ended up with two draws and one loss. It is the first humiliation in the history of Chinese soccer, which ended its three group matches with zero goals and zero wins.

The CFA quickly sought the next coach. A number of candidates are up for grabs, including Taishan coach Choi Kang-hee and Chengdu Rongcheng coach Seo Jeong-won. The top candidate was Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic. However, the Algerian national team also sent him a love call, and China was reportedly pushed out of the race.

China has turned to Ivankovic, who was the next best option. There was also a rumor that Jurgen Klinsmann, who was dismissed from Korea, was appointed, but it was only "New Year's Day."

Ivankovic has given up the leadership of the Omani national team after the Asian Cup. According to Q-Q Dotcom, he has already arrived in China for a final interview and agreed to pay 1.5 million euros in annual salary.

Ivankovic, a veteran coach, is also familiar with Asian soccer. He gained experience in Asia by playing for the Iranian national team (2002-2006), Saudi Arabia's Al-Ahli (2019), and Oman's national team (2020-2024). He coached Shandong from 2009 to 2011 and connected with Chinese soccer.

Q-Q Dotcom cites four of Ivankovic's strengths. "He knows Asian soccer well and has won the Chinese Super League. He has also led Oman's remarkable development and a low salary," the media said.

However, there are many voices of concern. "Coach Ivankovic was considered innovative in the past, but the pace of change in modern soccer is too fast. I am very worried that his coaching philosophy will not improve the Chinese national team. Also, it has been more than 10 years since he left Chinese soccer," Wang Tao pointed out.

Ivankovic's first test will be the second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North and Central America next month. "He has to beat Singapore and Thailand to pass the Asian qualifiers and change generations," said the "Sohu Dotcom." "It is a challenging attempt to appoint Ivankovic. He will bring a new concept of tactics and play to the national team."

Meanwhile, the Korean national soccer team is also looking for a replacement for Klinsmann. He was officially dismissed after failing to advance to the semifinals after a poor performance at the 2023 Asian Cup.

At the time, Chung Mong-kyu, chairman of the Korea Football Association (KFA), said, "Coach Klinsmann did not show the leadership skills expected in game management, player management, and work attitude," adding, "He decided to replace him because his competitiveness and attitude as a coach did not meet the public's expectations and sentiment, and it was difficult to improve in the future."

Unlike China, however, noises are constantly being made in the process of selecting a coach. The KFA started a process of drafting a new team by appointing Jung Hae-sung as its new chairman, but is under much criticism for his behind-the-scenes process and rough-and-ready administration. The KFA even reportedly wanted to push ahead with the appointment of an incumbent coach in the K League, which is set to open soon, drawing keen attention from fans.
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Friday, February 23, 2024
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