Sinai Says: After 18 months, time to say ‘au revoir’

The most frustrating part about Luis Fernandez’s complete and utter failure is that it was so predictable.

By JPOST CORRESPONDENT
September 7, 2011 00:25
4 minute read.
Luis Fernandez

Luis Fernandez311. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)

 
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The most frustrating part about Luis Fernandez’s complete and utter failure is that it was so predictable.

It didn’t take a genius or a prophet to foresee that the Frenchman’s tenure was not only destined to end in fiasco, but was also doomed to turn into a total farce.

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If you’re thinking the previous sentence sounds familiar, it’s because you may have read it before.

I wrote those exact words in a column titled “The wrong person, at the wrong place, at the wrong time,” shortly after he was named as the new Israel coach in March of last year.

It remains a complete mystery to me how Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon could have possibly thought that the blue-and-white’s already overrated squad had any chance of achieving success with a coach who had failed to last a full season at a club since 2003, had no previous experience coaching a national team, and worst of all, had no ability to communicate directly with most of his players, as he can’t speak English or Hebrew.

But Luzon had promised the nation that he would sign a foreign coach to finally guide the team to what would be its first major tournament since the 1970 World Cup, and despite not having the resources needed to lure a top name, he kept his word by bringing in a shoddier alternative in Fernandez.

And what a disaster it has been.



There’s no disgrace in failing to qualify for Euro 2012, even with such a dream draw. After all, we are running on the fumes of the memories of Mexico 1970, and Israel has only once managed to reach a qualifying playoff for a place in a major tournament since joining UEFA in 1991.

Like Fernandez, Shlomo Scharf (1992-2000), Richard Moller Nielsen (2000-2002) and Avraham Grant (2002-2006) all failed to lead the side to a World Cup or the European Championships, but the Frenchman’s debacle goes far beyond the results.

Compared to Fernandez’s charge, even Dror Kashtan’s (2006-2010) shambolic time as coach is beginning to look good.

Fernandez’s tenure has not only been a complete waste of time but its has actually set the blue-andwhite backwards.

Disappointing results are part of the game.

But the spiritless, undisciplined, and frankly, embarrassing displays by the national team under Fernandez are simply unacceptable.

The players should shoulder just as much, if not more, of the blame than Fernandez, but you can’t help but feel sorry for them when you consider the man they have to take instructions from.

A massive 41 players have been called up to the national team for Israel’s nine qualifiers so far, with Fernandez rotating his starting lineup from match to match as if he is running a soccer summer camp.

You would have thought after 18 months in charge that he would have worked out who his best players are and how to use them.

But he continues to shuffle players and swap tactical formations as if he has only just now joined the side.

Despite the pathetic performance in the 1-0 defeat to Greece at Bloomfield Stadium on Friday, Fernandez claimed that Israel didn’t deserve to lose, and said that despite the team’s poor results, it has made significant progress under his guidance.

He spoke about how he had helped develop young players and highlighted the fact that it is no coincidence that Israel had climbed in his time around 20 places to number 30 in the FIFA rankings.

However, Fernandez had forgotten to mention that when he took charge of the team it was at No. 28 and that it was under his tenure that it dropped to a six-year low of No. 58 before rising back to its current position at No. 32.

But forget about the bizarre FIFA rankings, which place Israel in front of the likes of the Czech Republic and World Cup quarterfinalist Ghana.

Fernandez somehow believes that calling up talented youngsters and handing them their debuts after two training sessions under his watchful eye can suddenly make them ten times the players they were previously.

However, all the credit for the progress made by the likes of Itzik Cohen, Taleb Tawatha and Omri Ben-Harush over the last two years should go to the coaches at their respective clubs and not to Fernandez, who has made a habit of calling up every half-decent player in the country and then claiming to have discovered them.

Thankfully, Croatia finally put Israel fans out of their misery by officially ending the blue-and-white’s chances of reaching the European Championships on Tuesday night.

The clueless Fernandez will be gone soon enough and a new, more competent coach will be put in charge.

Former Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman is the favorite to replace Fernandez and there have even been reports that Avraham Grant would consider returning for a second tenure with the national squad.

Both are worthy candidates to take over for Fernandez, although that really isn’t saying much. After the past year and a half, things can only get better.

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