The Sacking Cycle

Published 9 years ago
The Sacking Cycle

The end of a World Cup also signals the start of a new cycle for football associations around the globe, who tend to do their planning in four-year blocks.

It usually heralds a time of change for many sides, both on the playing field as some veteran stars choose to hang up their boots having had one last shot at glory, and in the dugout.

Some exits are inevitable – there was simply no way that Luiz Felipe Scolari could stay on as Brazil coach after the manner in which the host nation ended their tournament – while others may come as more of a surprise.


Football associations want to give themselves as long as possible to plan for the next World Cup, first for the qualifiers and then hopefully the finals, so it is sensible to make changes immediately after a tournament.

But, it is not only the men in suits that make the decisions. Sometimes the coach decides to step down, either because he feels he has taken the side as far as he can, or is after a different challenge having achieved the pinnacle of leading a side at the World Cup.

It also depends at which point the squad is in its development. A team can have many aging stars and the current coach, maybe more used to working with experienced players, might not be the best person to rejuvenate it.

At the other end of the scale, you have a side like England. The country’s first round exit in Brazil would normally be considered a disaster for the proud footballing nation who expects to be vying for ultimate footballing glory.


But, the current England team is very young and is building towards the 2018 tournament in Russia. With this in mind, the coach, Roy Hodgson, has been allowed to continue his work despite their embarrassing early flight home.

The English FA believe, despite the insipid performances in Brazil, that Hodgson is the best person to help nurture and develop this team into what they hope will be a force in Russia and perhaps Qatar in 2022 as well.

Football associations do sometimes bow to public pressure. When a coach has lost the faith of the fans, they will act.

But they should also understand that football teams are often a work in progress and a coach should be given the opportunity to finish what he has started, unless results are so bad that it is clear he is taking the team along the wrong path.


There are many factors to consider and they involve the players at his disposal, such as how the coach interacts with his players, do they respond to him and do his ideas suit the players in his squad.

National associations don’t sack coaches because they didn’t win the World Cup, I think they do it because they feel something is not working within the team.

Football can be cruel and a team’s failure to win can sometimes be out of the coach’s hands. This happened to Louis van Gaal when Netherlands were ousted on penalties in the semifinals.

He was always destined to leave his post after this tournament; that was already decided by the Dutch FA last year. I doubt there is anybody who blames Van Gaal for the team’s failure to lift the trophy.


So as things change around the world, in Africa it is no different. It is remarkable how swiftly the landscape changes in just a matter of weeks. Of the five African teams that participated at the World Cup, two already have new coaches.

Christian Gourcuff had been waiting in the wings at Algeria, even before Brazil. It was obvious that Vahid Halilhodzic wanted out and would not be persuaded to stay on.

Not even a presidential appeal for him to stay could sway Halilhodzic, who rapidly progressed from being the object of media scorn to a national hero by taking Algeria past the first round for the first time, and ensuring a honorable World Cup exit as they took eventual champions Germany to extra time.

Gourcuff’s appointment will further strengthen French ties with the Algerians.


Herve Renard, another Frenchman and a man I know well, is the new coach of Ivory Coast. He was swiftly chosen from a five-man shortlist after the Ivorian Football Federation had made the unusual step of publicly calling for candidates to replace Sabri Lamouchi.

Lamouchi’s tenure with the Ivorian team was always going to be in doubt after the World Cup, even if they had not been so unlucky and gone on to play in the second round. His relationship with influential players like Didier Drogba was fractured.

Renard was the coach of Zambia when they edged the Ivorians to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations title in Gabon, a tournament in which the Mighty Elephants did not concede a single goal and yet did not pick up the trophy. There lies the problem for any coach. You can have the best plans, but you still rely on the players to execute.

While I am delighted for Renard, his appointment did come at a cost to Zambia. The country’s coach, Patrice Beaumelle, who was Renard’s assistant when he was in charge of Chipolopolo, left to join his old boss in West Africa. It is disappointing, but it offers an opportunity for someone else to step in and make their mark.


In the month since the World Cup final, there have also been coaching changes for Gabon, Niger, South Africa, Kenya and Togo.

Despite their very disappointing showing in Brazil, Cameroon have stuck with German coach Volker Finke, although he has been under fire in the country. He is insisting he sees out his contract, which still has nine months to run.

It means there will be little time for the new men in charge to prepare, as the qualification matches for the 2015 African Cup of Nations begin on September 5.

When you are a coach, the pressure never lets up.