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Uneasy lies the crown on coaches´ heads

SoccerNews in European Championships 16 Jun 2008

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Football may be the beautiful game but it is also a cruel one and no-one is more vulnerable to the ups and downs of it than the man in charge – the coach.

Hailed as heroes one minute and then castigated the next they would be right in thinking whether they are coming or going and for several here at Euro 2008 having achieved success in qualifying they will be going because they have failed to meet expectations.

Veterans Jakob 'Kobi' Kuhn and Karel Bruckner are stepping down by their own volition from the Swiss and Czech hotseats respectively – the former ending on a high with a 2-0 win over Portugal, the latter with perhaps the lowest of memories as Turkey came from 2-0 down to beat his Czechs 3-2.

Luiz Felipe Scolari is leaving the Portuguese post for the bigger bucks as he admitted of Chelsea and Marco van Basten is also another to be willingly ditching international football for his beloved former club of Ajax.

However, on Tuesday van Basten may play a direct role in claiming the scalps of two of the biggest coaching posts in international football – those of France and Italy.

Should Romania beat his side in their final Euro 2008 Group C clash then both 2006 World champions Italy and the beaten finalists France will be out and it is likely that with them will go the coaching duo of Roberto Donadoni and Raymond Domenech.

Donadoni has effectively been on a hiding to nothing since he left modest Italian side Livorno to take over from World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi, and even his impressive and distinguished playing career with AC Milan and the Azzurri have given him little breathing space from the media.

Whilst Donadoni – who missed a penalty in the 1990 World Cup semi-final shootout with Argentina – mainly avoided brickbats for the 1-1 draw with Romania, he was firmly in the press sights following the opening 3-0 defeat by Holland.

“Donadoni selected badly and was late in making his substitutions, he took himself to be the world champion,” said La Giornale in a clear slight on the fact that while Italy are world champions, Donadoni was not the coach at the time.

“Honestly I was waiting for that,” said Donadoni. “I'm not bitter that they went to town on us but more or less it wasn't a bed of roses reading it.”

And whilst Donadoni signed an extension to his contract on June 4 which takes him up to 2010 there was a far more ominous warning from Italian federation president Giancarlo Abete, who declared that there would be “no excuses for Donadoni”, should Italy fall at the first round for the second consecutive European Championships.

Indeed, Le Parisien newspaper revealed on Monday that according to well-placed sources the way had already been paved for the return of Lippi and his usual sidekicks as coaches – Donadoni would not leave as a poor man as he could expect more than 500,000 euros in a pay-off.

The French too are eyeing up a former World Cup winner and another with a Juventus link in Didier Deschamps as a replacement for the unpopular Domenech, whose achievement in guiding France to within a penalty shootout of winning the World Cup seems largely to have been forgotten.

However, his poor manner with the media has not helped his cause and once results turned against him so it has become open season on the 56-year-old with former internationals like Emmanuel Petit commenting dryly: “We are in France, so it is logical heads should roll'.

However, Domenech has received a vote of confidence from the French football supremo Jean-Pierre Escalettes – for the moment.

“As far as I am concerned, I will support Domenech to the last, we are if you like a tandem. I am not a disloyal man, I will not utter those words 'Raymond, resign'.

“I am for him staying till 2010.

“But it is also true that other things may come into play which will have to be taken into consideration.”

Hardly a 100 percent backing with that last caveat and one would expect that failure to progress will bring it into play.

However, whatever one may feel about respective football coaches one would never wish such a farewell that was visited on 68-year-old Bruckner leaving him to say some final and haunting words on the international stage before he retires to garden on his farm in Olomouc.

“This defeat is going to take me long nights to get over…there will be many of those.”

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