Internal strife forces Blanc, Van Marwijk to pay ultimate price
The end of a major tournament often brings a rash of coaching changes. Euro 2012 has been no different. Some, like Franciszek Smuda (Poland), Dick Advocaat (Russia) and Slaven Bilic (Croatia) already were at the end of their contracts -- but Laurent Blanc and Bert van Marwijk, who coached France and Holland, respectively, were two surprise coaching casualties following Euro 2012.
No doubt, both teams did flop spectacularly in the competition: France won one game out of four, eschewing the identity that Blanc was trying to give it in its quarterfinal loss to Spain; while Holland lost all three matches, including its opener to Denmark.
The fallouts have focused, unsurprisingly, on players behaving badly, something both nations have become accustomed to in big competitions. The France camp was disturbed by a dressing-room incident after a loss to Sweden in which Alou Diarra and Samir Nasri clashed, and Blanc shouted at Hatem Ben Arfa. The Newcastle winger challenged Blanc to send him home (in an echo of the Nicolas Anelka row that ruined France's 2010 World Cup). Then, after the loss to Spain, Nasri launched an imaginative, but foul-mouthed rant at the journalist who had asked for a quote, an outburst for which he will appear before an FA disciplinary panel on July 27. Jeremy Menez, Ben Arfa and Yann M'Vila have also been called for lesser offenses.
For Holland, stories of internal strife came to light via a series of leaks to different publications. "Rafael van der Vaart was undermining the team by being open and public about his dismay at not being a starter," alleged Dutch paper
One of Holland's leading journalists, Johan Derksen, told Dutch football show VI Oranje that fullback Gregory van der Wiel was too busy working on his new clothing business and his hairstyle to focus on football, and accused Ibrahim Afellay of being "amazingly arrogant." The journalist closest to Van Persie, Henk Spaan of
That will be the case now. Just one day after
Van Marwijk had taken Holland to a World Cup final and to the No. 1 ranking, briefly, in the world rankings, but those three Group B losses, and the clear failure to rein in his players' egos, left his position under threat. When the decision came, it came from Van Marwijk himself and not the Dutch federation, who had backed him. Among those players who wanted the coach to reconsider (and there were plenty) was Van der Vaart. The now former manager still has yet to respond to the allegations about his players' behavior at the tournament.
Blanc also made the decision to stand down of his own accord, although he had less support from his boss. More than the behavior of his players and the drop in popularity of the French team -- over 50 percent before the tournament but a poll in
It started with a contract row. Upon his appointment in spring 2011, Le Graet said he wanted to extend Blanc's deal until 2014; Blanc wanted to wait until the end of the Euro qualifiers, and when that came, he heard nothing from Le Graet. Instead, the man at the top said he would wait to see how things went at the Euros. There were other clashes: Blanc felt that Le Graet had hung him out to dry in the "quota scandal" last summer, while the number and cost of Blanc's backroom staff was a constant battleground between the two men.
"Le Graet will go down in French football history as the man who backed the contract renewal of Raymond Domenech in 2008 (Le Graet was not FA vice-president at the time) -- and when you think that Domenech had six years as France coach, and Blanc just two, it's incredible," wrote
What next? Both federations are now looking for a replacement, who is likely to be a fourth- or fifth-choice candidate. In France, Didier Deschamps, who left Marseille on Monday, has already turned down the job, as has Arsene Wenger, who reportedly considered taking over as a job-share with his Arsenal role. The latest favorite is Paul Le Guen, with Raynald Denoueix, Rene Girard and Francis Smerecki (France Under-18 coach and the one most likely to put up with Le Graet's contractual requests) also in contention. Still, Le Graet has suggested that Deschamps could yet be talked round.
It's a similar story in Holland, where two leading options, Ronald Koeman and Frank de Boer, have ruled themselves out. Johan Cruyff has backed Frank Rijkaard for the job; Co Adriaanse is interested, while Louis van Gaal, who has an excellent record at bringing through young players, would be the popular choice.
With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil the target (France's qualifying task is made trickier as it's in the same qualifying group as Spain), both teams would be wise to employ iconic former players at the helm: Eric Cantona for France, and Cruyff himself for Holland. It may not be successful, but it would definitely be entertaining. Meanwhile, two very fine coaches are now out of work: let down by others; at least in some respects, they fell on their swords.