Seoul: South Korea coach Hong Myung-bo apologised to the nation and announced his resignation on Thursday to shoulder the blame for his team`s early exit from the World Cup in Brazil.
The announcement came just a week after Huh Jung-moo, vice- president of the Korea Football Association (KFA), said it had rejected Hong`s resignation and persuaded him to lead the national team ahead of next year`s Asian Cup in Australia.
Huh also announced his resignation shortly after Hong had finished speaking at a press conference in central Seoul.
"From player to coach I have spent 24 years in the national team," Hong said at the media conference. "I promised to give hope to the nation before I headed to the World Cup but I am offering my sincere apologies for giving nothing but disappointment as a result.
"I could have diverted blame from myself if I had announced my resignation at the airport, but I felt taking blame for our performance should also be my responsibility, so I made a late announcement.
"I have made many mistakes and errors. I was not mature enough, and I created many misunderstandings."
Hong`s position came under scrutiny after South Korea, who reached the semi-finals in 2002 on home soil, finished bottom of Group H and earned just one point.
It was the first time the north east Asian team failed to record a win in the group stage since 1998.
CRITICISM FROM START
Hong faced criticism from fans before the team even left for Brazil with the selection of his 23-man squad.
His decision to stick with misfiring striker Park Chu-young in Brazil then drew more criticism, while his failure to sort out the team`s defensive woes led to an embarrassing 4-2 loss to Algeria that virtually eliminated them from the tournament.
"What kind of coach only picks his favourite players for the World Cup," Hong asked rhetorically. in explaining his selections.
"I realised one of the reasons I failed is because I did not go through the World Cup qualifying process.
"If I had, I could have known the strengths and weaknesses of each player but I didn`t. So I only selected the players that I knew."
When the squad arrived home last week they were pelted with small toffees wrapped in yellow plastic, an insult in South Korea and greeted with a funeral banner that declared "South Korean soccer is dead."
The controversy surrounding Hong was exacerbated in the days after his return home when local media reported his players had drowned their sorrows at an alcohol-fuelled dinner in Brazil when the team`s exit from the tournament was certain.
"The young players were depressed and I wanted to cheer them up," he said. "But I think it was not discreet of me to do so."
South Korea was not the only Asian team that had a poor showing at the World Cup.
The other three Asian Football Confederation sides - Japan, Australia and Iran - also finished bottom of their groups and exited the tournament in the first round without a victory.
Alberto Zaccheroni has since stepped down as coach of Japan and Iran coach Carlos Queiroz also quit.
"Among many American presidents I think Jimmy Carter is the one who did not do well during presidency but achieved the most after he left office," said Hong when asked about his future plans, without giving further details.
"Since I earned my honour in soccer I do not mind losing it in soccer.
"I have done my best."