"Third time lucky for the nations football team?"

  11 December 2014    Read: 753
"Third time lucky for the nations football team?"
The Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) has finally decided on the new coach for the national side. The Croatian Robert Prosinecki has taken over following the resignation of the German coach, Berti Vogts. Before the final round of negotiations Prosinecki learned more about the country`s football infrastructure and the development of schools football and watched matches in the national championship as well as Qarabaq (Agdam)`s match against St. Etienne in the group stage of the Europa League.

AFFA has closely studied Prosinecki`s plan of operation for the Azerbaijani national team. He has also agreed to live in Baku. The downside of choosing Prosinecki was his lack of coaching experience. In 2006-2010 he worked as assistant chief coach of the Croatian national side. He had also been chief coach of Crvena Zvezda (incidentally, the first Croatian to coach a Serbian club) and the Turkish club Kayserispor, but did not have a great deal of success there.

So AFFA have taken quite a risk in trusting Prosinecki with the job of Azerbaijan`s coach. On the other hand, they have already suffered four defeats in the qualifying stage of Europe-2016 and many celebrated coaches risk their reputation when they agree to take on the national side. But for Prosinecki working with Azerbaijan could become a positive experience and he is using all his knowledge to achieve success.

"I watched the Croatia-Azerbaijan match in the current round. Despite the 0-6 defeat Azerbaijan does have potential. The result doesn`t mean the team can`t develop. One shouldn`t forget that Croatia are a very strong side," Prosinecki said. He said he would live in Baku and follow matches involving younger players to attract new blood into the national side. "I don`t see any problem about living in Azerbaijan: Baku is a very beautiful city. On the other hand, I need to follow all the teams and look for new players. The national team always needs new blood. The standard of the national team can be improved; all we have to do is work," the Croatian coach pointed out.

All the members of AFFA`s executive committee voted in favour of Prosinecki`s appointment as chief coach. His contract is until the end of 2018. He will receive 1.2m euros this season, along with his two foreign assistants. The financial conditions of his contract from 2016 to 2018 will be agreed later. Prosinecki will also be assisted by local experts Mahmud Qurbanov, Elxan Abdullayev and Faiq Azizov.

AFFA General Secretary Elxan Mammadov said the other candidates for the post of chief coach wanted more money. "Some of them wanted 3m euros, as well as the same amount of compensation in the event of early termination of the contract. So our talks with the more experienced and prominent coaches came to nothing. I don`t want to name names, but there were some very reputable candidates," Mammadov told R+.

AFFA President Rovnaq Abdullayev told journalists that the right choice had been made. "Prosinecki is a young coach who is hungry for success. I know that a lot of people were talking about Qurban Qurbanov. I once brought him to Neftci, and when they called for his resignation I was against it. Qurban is a very intelligent and gifted coach. But if we took him from Qarabaq, he would be deprived of working with a club and would be left with nothing here. If the national team with Qurban suddenly loses two games everyone will demand his resignation," Abdullayev said.

Kayserispor`s sports director, Hasan Huseyin Abiz, spoke to R+ about Prosinecki`s work there. "When he was in charge at Kayserispor we did well, but in the second half of the season we lost several matches in a row. So Prosinecki resigned, and didn`t create any problems for anyone. He`s a very fine man, but he`s tough. He knows how to treat players and does everything possible to win. If Azerbaijan supports him, he could be successful. But in football, not everything depends on the coach. Luck plays a big part, too. On the whole, I have to say he is a fine coach."

When Prosinecki was coach at Crvena Zvezda, they also had Neftci`s goalkeeper, Sasha Stamenkovic. "He is always trying to better himself. You will all be thanking him after the very first game. He can recognize what each player`s like and get him to improve," Stamenkovic said of Prosinecki`s appointment.

So, Prosinecki will be the third foreign coach to head the Azerbaijani national side. Before him we had the Brazilian Carlos Alberto Torres and the German Berti Vogts. The current round of matches in the national team will be a testing one for Prosinecki. After four defeats in a row it would be unrealistic to expect immediate results. Of course, the team could play well in the remaining matches. And Prosinecki`s main job is to create competition in the squad and improve the standard of the national team.


AT FIRST HAND

"I need to follow all the teams and look for new players. The national team always needs new blood. The standard of the national team can be improved; all we have to do is work,"

Robert Prosinecki, chief coach of the Azerbaijani national team

"I know that a lot of people were talking about Qurban Qurbanov. Qurban is a very intelligent and gifted coach. But if we took him from Qarabaq, he would be deprived of working with a club and would be left with nothing here. If the national team with Qurban suddenly loses two games everyone will demand his resignation,"

Rovnaq Abdullayev, AFFA president


ABOUT PROSINECKI

Robert Prosinecki is better known as a player than a coach. He was born in Germany in 1969, grew up in Croatia and began his career with Dinamo (Zagreb) before moving to Crvena Zvezda. A midfielder, Prosinecki also played for the Spanish clubs Real, Oviedo, Barcelona and Seville, Standard (Belgium), Portsmouth (England) and a number of other clubs. He played 15 times for Yugoslavia, scoring four goals and 49 times for Croatia, scoring 10 goals. He has been a world youth champion (1987), European youth vice-champion (1990), UEFA champions cup winner (1991) and World Cup runner-up (1998). He also has several awards in national championships.

Berti Vogts and Prosinecki crossed paths in 1998. At the World Cup in France, Germany, led by Vogts, lost 0-3 in the quarter final to Croatia. Prosinecki played the whole game, whereas Vogts resigned after the defeat.

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