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Bonfrere vs. Hiddink

Posted July. 28, 2004 22:26,   


Game Strategy—

Both coaches prefer the 4-4-2 formation, as good organization enables more diverse and aggressive strategies.

Gus Hiddink assumed his post as the national team coach in early 2001, choosing the four-back formation as the team’s basic formation, but eventually switching to the 3-4-3 formation. He stuck with a 4-4-2 formation until mid 2001, switched to 3-4-3 late that year, briefly used 3-5-2 in early 2002, then settled on 3-4-3 just before the World Cup. The choice resulted in Korea’s celebrated rise to the semifinals.

Johannes Bonfrere also began with the 4-4-2 formation, but immediately changed to 3-5-2 at crunch-time before the Asian Cup, and switched once again to a 3-4-3 formation during the tournament, to good effect. He remarked that “the formation can always change depending on the opponent we’re facing,” and it is anticipated that he will try various experiments in that regard once the Asian Cup is over.

For the first five games after their appointment as national coach, Hiddink recorded one win, two draws, and two losses, while Bonfrere has recorded three wins and two draws. Since soccer is a relative sport, it would be impossible to compare the two coaches according to the same standards, but, at least statistically, Bonfrere is off to a better start.

Directing the Troops—

Both use a strictly competitive system, without regard to a player’s name or reputation. The smallest mistake or carelessness would evoke their wrath, whether during training or actual play. They compile the entry line-up according to the attitudes and conditions demonstrated during training. They even resemble each other in the way that they meticulously record each player’s characteristics and state of mind.

In terms of their relationship with the coaching staff, Hiddink tended towards the “monarchical”: he rarely let the Korean coaches interfere, and was quite unpredictable, often changing the team’s schedule without prior notice. By contrast, Bonfrere has an open attitude, to the point that he would engage in brainstorming sessions with the head of the coaching staff, Huh Jung-moo, regarding strategy and maneuvers. He is reputed to be somewhat hot-blooded, but federation officials say he is calm and collected when compared to Hiddink.


This is where the two coaches differ drastically. If Hiddink was aristocratic, Bonfrere is plebeian.

Hiddink enjoyed expensive brand-name items like neckties, shoes, and watches. He liked to stand before the media and even seemed to hope that his comments would see wide circulation. He didn’t pay much heed to other people’s views either, often going on trips openly accompanied by his girlfriend Elizabeth.

On the other hand, Bonfrere is something of a straight arrow, always dressing in t-shirts and shabby trousers. He rarely wears ties, and looks like a simple country farmer. Rather than worrying about his appearance, he gives his full attention to soccer. He avoids interviews with the media, with a curt, “No comment.” Even during his time off, he reads soccer-related publications. He is a straight-up, hardworking coach, with an aura of perspiration always hovering about him.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com