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.
If you’re thinking the
previous sentence sounds familiar, it’s because you may have read it
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
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
Fernandez’s tenure has not only been a complete waste of time but
its has actually set the blue-andwhite backwards.
are part of the game.
But the spiritless, undisciplined, and frankly,
embarrassing displays by the national team under Fernandez are simply
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.