Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker was on Thursday sacked as Poland coach after their struggles in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying, FA chief Grzegorz Lato said.
The 67-year-old former Dutch coach was axed after the side crashed 3-0 away to Slovenia on Wednesday. The Slovenia game, which came after a sloppy 1-1 draw at home on Saturday to Northern Ireland, left Poland second-from-bottom of Group Three and unlikely to catch up in their two remaining games against leaders Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
"That was Leo Beenhakker's last game as Poland manager," Lato told Polish television. "We have several candidates. It's too early to talk about names. But it will certainly be a Pole."
Beenhakker became the first foreigner in charge of Poland when he was appointed in July 2006 to shake up the side after their first-round exit from the world finals in Germany.
The former Real Madrid, Ajax and Feyenoord coach became a national star after steering them to UEFA EURO 2008 in Switzerland and Austria - their debut European championships - but they also fell at the first hurdle there. His reputation was tarnished for many Poles earlier this year when he became an aide to Dutch side Feyenoord, whom he used to coach, and there was repeated speculation that he was on the way out.
The struggles in world qualifying is a blow for Poland as they prepare to host the UEFA EURO 2012, Sports Minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki said Thursday. "I'm suffering. My heart's bleeding. That's normal," Drzewiecki said during a football-focused panel at the Krynica Economic Forum on southern Poland. "But it's not just because of the game with Slovenia. Some effects coming out of this could be bad for the future of Polish football, and especially the national team," he said.
No return to glory days
Poland had been banking on a slot at the FIFA World Cup to hone their skills. As co-hosts with Ukraine of EURO 2012, Poland have an automatic birth at Europe's showcase tournament. That, Drzewiecki said, is a problem because the Poles will have nothing but friendlies to help them get ready. "Over the next 1,000 days, Poland won't play any competitive matches. Because we're not going to be in the World Cup, that means we're going to go almost three years without a match. The first competitive game will be on June 9, 2012, and that worries me," he said.
Euro 2012 on home soil is being seen by many fans as a chance of reviving the golden age of football in Poland. Poland finished third at Germany 1974 - when Lato, with seven goals, was the tournament's top scorer - and again in 1982. They also won Olympic gold and then silver in 1972 and 1976. They made it to the second round of Mexico 1986 and received an Olympic silver in 1992, but were then hit by a decade-long drought.
Despite solid qualifying campaigns, their lacklustre finals displays in 2002 and 2006 dashed fans' hopes of a return to the glory days.