‘Kaiser’ Franz Beckenbauer has become the latest candidate to refuse the vacant German managerial post saying he “would rather jump off his balcony” than take on the task. Former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld had initially turned down the job, giving his wife’s need for a holiday as his reason. All seemed to be hunky-dory when he agreed to start on January 1, 2005, only for another change of mind, leading to a second and final refusal.
Elsewhere, things are easier. In Croatia, Zlatko Kranjcar, 47, has succeeded Otto Baric and the French Federation has appointed 52-year-old former U21 coach Raymond Domenech as its new manager.
In Bulgaria, ex-star player Hristo Stoitchkov has taken over and even no-hopers Jamaica have been able to secure the services of former Brazil coach Sebastião Lazaroni to steer them to the 2006 World Cup finals – in Germany!
European and national champions Porto will be an unknown quantity this season. The entire coaching staff has left for Chelsea to be replaced by Italian Del Nieri and his backroom boys. Most stars of the 2003/’04 side have also packed their bags. Paulo Ferreira has already joined his former manager at Stamford Bridge and Costinha looks likely to follow. Ricardo Carvalho will, in all likelihood, join Madrid with Maniche, while Deco has signed for Barcelona. Alenitchev has returned to Moscow and Nuno Valente is now with Bolton. Seitaridis and Dellas of the successful Greek national team, which is also dispersing all over Europe, are being lined up as replacements. Such is the price of success!
At the other end of the spectrum, newly promoted Liga da Honra side Olhanense from the eastern Algarve hope for further success with the signing of 23-year-old Nigerian Hillary Chinedo. The 1m 89cm tall striker is the final reinforcement of a squad that includes eight new signings.
Two Englishmen who have arrived for a Portuguese adventure are Paul Murray (ex-Oldham) and Stephen McPhee (ex-Port Vale). Both will play for the Mick Wandsworth-trained Beira-Mar side, which is hoping to qualify for a UEFA Cup place this season. Murray, 27, was regarded as the best young footballer in England when with QPR in 1997, whereas McPhee spent his formative years with Coventry.
The group phase is over and, as anticipated, hosts Peru, Argentina and Brazil made it to the quarter-final stage. Joining them were surprise package Costa Rica, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Mexico. In the games to decide the semi-finalists last weekend, Columbia ended the Costa Rican challenge 2-0 and Argentina came through narrow 1-0 victors over Peru. Brazil brushed Mexico aside 4-0 and will meet Uruguay, 3-1 winners over Paraquay, in the other semi. The final will be played this Sunday.