Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Road to 2010: Coaches in Trouble

It is getting late, out there in the world of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. No more than two matches left for this main round of qualifying.

And that always makes for a rash of a certain type of story:

The national team coach who has been fired ... or is about to be fired ... or who seemingly every working journalist in his country is campaigning to have fired.

Let's examine at least one of each of those three varieties.

Variety No. 1: Leo Beenhakker, the Dutch coach of Poland's national side. Beenhakker was shown the door after Poland went down 3-0 at Slovenia and was eliminated from contention for South Africa 2010. This is the same Beenhakker who was so dumb two years ago that he got Poland into the Euro Cup for the first time in national history and was, shortly thereafter, awarded the Order of Polonia medal by the government. But that was before the Slovenia match and, after all, coaches are hired to be fired. Especially foreign coaches.

Variety No. 2: Diego Maradona, the Argentine coach of Argentina's national side. What a horrible idea this was, turning over a national treasure to a guy who couldn't make sense of his own personal life. Argentina has lost four of five qualifying matches since he took over and has fallen to fifth in the South America standings -- putting it at risk of not even qualifying for South Africa. With a month before Argentina's final two qualifying matches, it seems like a perfect moment to invite Diego to go back to Cuba and hang out with his pal Fidel and find a real coach. Such as Carlos Bilardo, who already is with the team in an advisory capacity -- though Maradona takes no advice, it would seem. Rob Hughes, the respected soccer columnist for the International Herald Tribune, writes that "All Argentina has are players who look great -- on somebody else’s teams." Maradona says he isn't backing down, but a former teammate, Osvaldo Ardiles, said on Sky TV that “It’s hopeless. We are not a team, we are a collection of individuals — and even the individuals are not showing up.” ... We hear that Leo Beenhakker is available, too. Anyway, there is a sense that Argentina still can salvage this if it gets a competent manager, and that its federation finally may realize that.

Variety No. 3. Raymond Domenech, the French coach of France, who got to the World Cup finals in 2006 -- apparently through some kind of miracle, according to French journalists, who pillory him at every turn now. The French federation seems determined to stick with Domenech, even after a pair of draws over the past week all but doomed France to second place in its group, hoping it can win one of the home-and-home playoffs that determine the final four European qualifiers. So it is up to the members of the Fourth Estate to try to goad France into finding a replacement for Domenech, who would have been fired long ago if it were up L'Equipe.

Coaching is a risky business, of course. But it seems particularly volatile in world soccer, where a couple of bad results can put you in the bread line. I hope and assume most of these guys get their money up front.

No comments:

Post a Comment