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Hiddink poised for crowning glory

By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

guus hiddink
Guus Hiddink has achieved success around the globe

Guus Hiddink has cast his shadow over world football for the last 20 years - a coaching giant for clubs and countries around the globe.

The 61-year-old Dutchman's impressive CV stretches from winning PSV Eindhoven's first European Cup in 1988 to achieving the remarkable feat of taking South Korea to the World Cup semi-final in 2002.

He took his home country to the last four of France 98 and cemented his reputation by taking part-time charge of Australia and guiding the Socceroos to the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup, where they lost cruelly to an injury-time penalty against Italy.

Hiddink was hailed as a national hero in South Korea when he gave the co-hosts their greatest moment six years ago.

And he has now achieved similar status in Russia, where his face adorns buildings around Moscow and he has even drawn rare public words of affection from prime minister Vladimir Putin.

HIDDINK FACTFILE
1946 Born 8 Nov in Wisch
1984 Appointed assistant manager at PSV Eindhoven. Becomes manager in 1986
1988 Hiddink leads PSV to first European Cup win
1995 Holland coach. Reaches quarter-finals of Euro 96, and World Cup 98 semis
1998 Takes over at Real Madrid. Wins World Club Cup
2001 Becomes South Korea national coach and leads them to 2002 World Cup semi-finals
2002 Returns to PSV
2005-06 Australia coach, takes them to 2006 World Cup last 16
2006-present Takes Russia to Euro 2008

Hiddink hopes to cement his reputation as a coaching great and crown his glittering career by guiding Russia to Euro 2008 glory.

He has drawn respect from players and coaching peers, with Brazil superstar Ronaldinho moved to declare: "Anyone with an interest in soccer understands that Hiddink is a magnificent achiever and someone whose names stand for perpetual success. He is one of the top four or five coaches in the world."

And Manchester United's Ji-Sung Park, who played for Hiddink with PSV and South Korea, is even more fulsome in his praise.

He claims brief words of praise from Hiddink about his mental strength when he was injured transformed his career.

Park says in his autobiography: "If it was not for coach Hiddink, I would not be where I am now.

"Within a minute, what coach Hiddink said to me changed my life forever. I feel a bit shy thinking about what he would think after reading this, but he is my 'master' and I owe him everything and I won't be able to repay it in my life."

These words may have resonance in Soho Square after many felt the Football Association missed an open goal when they failed to appoint Hiddink as Sven-Goran Eriksson's successor and appointed Steve McClaren.

The irony was lost on no-one when Hiddink's Russia finished ahead of McClaren's England in the race to Euro 2008.

And no-one should dismiss the possibility of Hiddink finally claiming a major international honour with Russia.

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport Euro 2008 pundit Pat Nevin has observed his career and methods closely and sees him as the main reason for Russian optimism as they await the start of Euro 2008.

He said: "I can see them getting to the final. They have an outstanding coach in Guus Hiddink. He is the man. On ability he is the best there is along with Sir Alex Ferguson. He managed to take South Korea to the World Cup semi-finals in 2002, so imagine what he could do with a team as gifted as Russia.

"Sure South Korea were at home, but what he did with them was a phenomenal achievement. Their style of play was superb, all the players clearly had great faith in them and no-one enjoyed playing against them.

"Hiddink is a very clever coach. He gets his players together, realises what they are best at and then decides the system. He doesn't go in there and impose a Hiddink system on players, he does what is best for the team. He has got a tremendous track record and I'm a real admirer."

The Dutchman is the master of making players believe they can scale previously unachieved heights, and his ability to gel a collection of individuals into a team with minimum preparation makes him an outstanding international operator.

Hiddink is bold tactically, has shown a happy knack of producing winning teams even when stars have been absent, is almost as fanatical about what his players do when they do not have the ball as when they have it, and is no respecter of reputations.

Ronaldinho
Hiddink is a magnificent achiever and someone whose names stand for perpetual success - Ronaldinho

He tackled a Dutch dressing room full of egos at Euro 96 and demonstrated his strength by dismissing star player Edgar Davids from the camp - an indicator of his fanatical devotion to team spirit.

Hiddink's stature as a national hero in Russia is a far cry from the controversy that greeted his appointment, with former Russian manager Valery Gazzayev saying: "I strongly believe that just being a good coach is not enough to lead our national team.

"You must be a real patriot, thoroughly understand our national identity, character and traditions, and for that you must be born here."

Hiddink answered in the way he knows best - winning games and helped by support from fellow countryman Dick Advocaat, who recently led Zenit St Petersburg to Uefa Cup triumph.

Advocaat told Hiddink's Russian critics: "Guus's record shows he is a world-class coach. You should be very happy to have him here."

And if he gets it right at another major tournament, they may have even greater reason to be grateful for his presence at the end of Euro 2008.




see also
Hiddink dismisses Blues job link
01 Jun 08 |  Chelsea
Russia team guide
15 May 08 |  Russia
Pick your Russia XI
23 May 08 |  Russia


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