BEIRUT // Srecko Katanec paid the price for the UAE’s shock defeat to Lebanon last night with his job, ending his two-year reign in charge.
The Slovenian, 48, had his contract terminated immediately after the game and was given the news by Mohammed Khalfan Al Rumaithi, the president of the Football Association, who was at the game at the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium.
“It is official now, Srecko Katanec is terminated,” confirmed Jaseb Majeed, the FA’s media manager.
Following the 3-2 defeat to Kuwait on Friday night, speculation had been mounting that defeat to Lebanon, who were thrashed 6-0 by South Korea last week and 7-1 by the UAE in July, would cost Katanec his job, and so it has proved.
At the team hotel late last night, Katanec said he had a long chat with Al Rumaithi after being informed he was out of a job.
“We talked about many things, and I was grateful for that,” Katanec said in the lobby of the Safir Heliopolis Hotel. “When I was sacked at Olimpiakos, nobody tells me nothing.”
He said he was “angry, not sad” at the turn of events because he felt more could have been accomplished, and he said he would still be employed had the UAE defeated Lebanon.
Katanec has heard the rumours of Abel Braga replacing him. “I think someone has been pushing me from behind, but it does not matter anymore.”
He said the new coach will need time. “I hope they are patient with him, and I hope some of the players will join a little higher level of football to get more experience. It will be necessary in the future if you want to win.”
He said the national team needs to examine their work ethic. “You can win and you can lose, but you must work,” he said. “I know this, if you are not working, you lose the game.”
The UAE are bottom of Group B and their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1990 are virtually over despite having four games remaining.
Katanec had previously criticised the chaotic structure of the domestic league, the lack of Emirati strikers and the fitness of his players, but he was not offering any mitigating circumstances for the latest defeat straight after the match last night.
“I thought I did my job, but we lost and it is my fault,” Katanec said. “I do not want to make excuses.”
Katanec’s position initially came under scrunity following a hugely disappointing performance in the Asian Cup where the UAE mustered just one point from three games and failed to score a goal.
He bought himself some time with a comprehensive two-legged World Cup qualifying victory over India, but the reprieve proved short lived. His position became untenable after successive defeats to Kuwait and Lebanon.
“We played very bad in both matches and I will take full responsibility of the team’s poor performances,” Katanec told the Arabic daily Al Ittihad.
Theo Bucker, the German who took over Lebanon before their 6-0 Group B defeat by South Korea, said he could empathise with Katanec’s precarious situation.
“This is very sad,” Bucker said. “I’m sure the guy is a good coach. He has given everything to the team, but he himself is not able to play. He is not able to score. If the elements of the team do not respond to him …
“I coached in Dubai, and I know it is not easy there in the UAE. So I’m feeling sorry for the guy because this is an unpleasant situation for him. But it’s football.”
Katanec’s cause last night was hardly helped by the fact he was forced to use two players late in the match, Salem Saleh and Ahmed Jumaa, with extremely limited international experience.
“But who else do I have? They are new players, but we needed them,” he said before his dismissal.