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Fernandez’s failings far too evident for IFA to ignore

Sinai Says: Not only have the Frenchman’s nine months at the helm been an absolute waste of time, but they have actually set the team backwards.

February 16, 2011 06:07
4 minute read.
Fernandez’s failings far too evident for IFA to ignore

Allon sinai 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

A quick look at the results achieved by the Israel national soccer team since Luis Fernandez took charge reveals what a complete and utter failure his time at the helm has been.

One win, one draw and two defeats in Euro 2012 qualification leaves the blue-and- white in fourth position in Group F with four points, with the side’s one and only victory coming against the pitiful Malta national team.

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Fernandez’s side has even failed in meaningless friendlies, winning one match and losing three, including last week’s 2-0 home defeat to Serbia.

However, what makes Fernandez’s tenure into a total disaster is not the fact that Israel will once more fail to reach a major tournament.

After all, Israel hasn’t qualified for a big event since the 1970 World Cup and would have very likely also struggled to make the upcoming European Championships under the guidance of a far better coach.

But Fernandez’s debacle goes far beyond the results.

Shlomo Scharf (1992-2000), Richard Moller Nielsen (2000-2002) and Avraham Grant (2002-2006) also all failed to lead the side to a World Cup or European Championship, but at least they helped the team improve.

Over the course of their coaching stints you could actually see some progress.

But compared to Fernandez, even Dror Kashtan’s (2006-2010) bitterly disappointing time in charge is beginning to look good.

Not only have the Frenchman’s nine months at the helm been an absolute waste of time, but they have actually set the team backwards.

Fernandez has had the audacity to complain about the quality of the players at his disposal, failing to grasp that it is his shortcomings rather than theirs which have stood in the team’s way of success.

It is true that Israeli soccer has seen better generations of players, but Fernandez’s crop are capable of so much more than he has been able to get out of them.

Itai Shechter, Ben Sahar, Biram Kiyal, Bibras Natcho, Eran Zahavi, Omer Damari, Almog Cohen and Eyal Golasa are just a few of the very talented names Fernandez has been complaining about, with all the aforementioned players still 23 years old or younger, an age at which the role of the coach is especially crucial.

Together with veterans Dudu Aouate, Tal Ben-Haim and Yossi Benayoun, who missed Israel’s last two qualifiers through injury, the Frenchman has got more than enough quality with which to build a strong team, but he has so far fallen woefully short.

The players continue to back their coach publicly, but it is clear to anyone who follows the side closely that he has long lost the credit with which he arrived and is not far from losing the dressing room altogether.

A call-up to the national team remains the boyhood dream of every player, but it has lost its luster since Fernandez took the reins.

The Frenchman has called up over 50 players to the team’s matches, as if he is running try-outs for a youth side rather than creating a cohesive unit from the country’s very best prospects.

Testing different lineups in friendlies is one thing, but the Frenchman has already called up 38 players to Israel’s four qualifiers.

It goes without saying that he has yet to use the same starting 11 twice.

You would have thought that the Israel Football Association would have stayed away from a coach who had failed time and again in recent years and clearly was going to have enormous problems communicating with his players as he does not speak English or Hebrew.

But IFA chairman Avi Luzon promised himself and the public that he would bring in a top foreign coach, before sadly settling for a shoddier and cheaper alternative, something he too now regrets.

The relationship between Luzon and Fernandez began to deteriorate long ago, with the chairman already saying that should the Frenchman fail to lead the blue-and-white to Euro 2012, he would like to see current Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman take his place.

After its poor start to the campaign, Israel must defeat both Latvia and Georgia at Bloomfield Stadium in its next two qualifiers on March 26 and 29, respectively, to maintain any outside chance of making the finals.

Any other result, and the national team will be out of contention to reach the championships in Poland and Ukraine.

Should that happen, Israel must not waste one more day with Fernandez.

Gutman should have been named as the coach last year, and instead of waiting until the Frenchman’s contract runs out in November, the IFA should call on the Hapoel Tel Aviv coach to take over the blue-and-white at the end of the club season, assuming of course the national team fails to defeat either Latvia or Georgia.

Israel’s next qualifier after March will only be played in June, when Gutman will already be done with his assignments with Hapoel Tel Aviv, and even though he will no longer be able to lead the national squad to Euro 2012, he will at least have had a head start in preparing it for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

Instead of turning a young and talented squad of players into the pride of Israel, Fernandez has made the national team a laughing stock.

Hopefully, Israel can win its next two qualifiers next month and challenge for a place in Euro 2012.

But if it doesn’t, Fernandez has to go.

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