While it has been an accepted fact across Asia over the past decade that a vastly experienced foreign coach could be crucial for a team's success, the tendency towards this imported manager policy appears to be unfashionable recently.
China, the world's most populous nation, was the first to turn to the home-grown option, picking Zhu Guanghu as the replacement for Dutchman Arie Haan, who had failed to lead the team through to the previous FIFA World Cup in Germany.
Despite quickly gaining his spurs with some inspiring results, including winning the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) Championship title in 2005 over the likes of Japan and Korea Republic, Zhu's charges failed to live up to expectations when it came to major international competitions.
In the 2007 AFC Asian Cup finals in July, the team suffered an early exit at the group stage following a 3-0 humiliation at the hands of Uzbekistan, their worst ever result in this competition.
This defeat was Zhu's last match in charge of China, who made way for Serbian Vladimir Petrovic in September. With the difficult task of leading China to their second FIFA World Cup finals, the former Yugoslavia international admitted to the difficulties facing him but vowed to fulfill his mission.
"I wouldn't have accepted the job without the necessary confidence to guide the team to South Africa 2010," he told FIFA.com in a recent interview, "I believe the team will be able to rebuild their lost credibility as long as they work hard and well."
The return of home-grown
China's lessons of reverting to the foreign coach policy, however, seem not to be learned by neighbours Korea Republic and Japan, who both appointed a home-grown coach on 7 December.
Both appointments came as sudden ones. Takeshi Okada, who guided Japan to their first-ever FIFA World Cup finals at France 1998, rose from the ashes to come back to the national team post after Bosnian Ivica Osim suffered a stroke in November. Huh Jung-Moo, who was replaced by Guus Hiddink in 2000, was given back the reigns following Mick McCarthy and Gerard Houllier's rejection of the position.
One obvious reason behind the decisions was that the two East Asian sides could not afford more time in their managerial search ahead of the qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010™. And, with their qualification matches beginning on 6 February, the two coaches have also been give little time to prepare their outfits.
Okada wasted no time in starting his work, announcing the first Japan squad at his disposal: a 33-man provisional squad only five days after his appointment. While few would bet against them in their first home fixture against Thailand, Okada's goal is to book Japan's fourth consecutive appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals.
"I felt a sense of duty and I thought I needed to give my best effort for Japan," he said. "I will build the team step by step during the qualifiers, making the most of what the team has now."
Coach Huh's preparatory work with Korea Republic will come late as he will not be able to call the team together until 3 February, three days before their opening home match against Turkmenistan. However, the 52-year-old did not hide his confidence to take the Taeguk Warriors to their seventh FIFA World Cup finals in a row.
"I will do my best to maximize our capabilities and we have to pull ourselves up and start all over again." he commented.
Asian experiences count
Only a couple of days prior to Huh's re-appointment as Korea coach, his predecessor Pim Verbeek was confirmed as Australia's new head coach. Having reached the second round at Germany 2006 under Hiddink, the Socceroos chose to go Dutch again.
Australia disappointed in July's Asian Cup, losing a group match 3-1 to eventual champions Iraq before crashing out following a quarter-final defeat to Japan. Not surprisingly, Verbeek's knowledge of Asian football which he has gained both as assistant to Hiddink and the head coach with Korea Republic, made him the hottest option to replace Graham Arnold after Australia failed to reach an agreement with Phillippe Troussier and Dick Advocaat.
Verbeek will have his first test in charge of Australia in two months' time, with a home match against Qatar in Melbourne. Having assisted Hiddink and Korea Republic to the semi-finals of Korea/Japan 2002, he believes his stint with Australia will be "an exciting time for football" in the country.
"I am looking forward to the challenge ahead of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup," said the former Feyenoord manager. "And I am committed to also helping to develop the game in Australia."