Backe sacked as Finland coach

Hans Backe’s short-lived tenure as Finland coach has come to end after he was sacked following a winless start to qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

Assistant coach Markku Kanerva will replace the 64-year-old Swede, who failed to register a single victory during 16 months in charge, and leaves with the team having taken just a point from their four Group I matches.

The former New York Red Bulls coach had spoken confidently to FIFA.com in October about his team’s prospects, but admitted that their hopes rested on “keeping our main players free of injuries and suspensions”. Sadly for Backe and Finland, that has not proved possible, and the coach has paid a predictable price.

As Pertti Alaja, chairman of the national association, said in a statement: "We had a lot of misfortune, an unforeseen amount of injuries and absences. Still, top-level football is a result sport and these results did not satisfy anybody,"

The decision seems likely to spell the end of Backe’s 34-year coaching career, which has encompassed spells in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, Greece, Mexico and USA.

As the veteran coach told FIFA.com in October: "I felt my career was over after I left New York Red Bulls . I really expected that to be my last job. But when Finland approached me about leading them through these qualifiers, I felt I couldn’t turn it down. I just thought: ‘I have to go back’.

“I’m pretty sure that this will be my last job though. You should never say never, I know, and I wouldn't completely rule out doing something else. But the way I see it now, once I finish here I’ll almost definitely retire.”

Finland, meanwhile, will hope for happier times under Kanerva, who has signed a three-year contract and will be assisted by a new-look backroom team including former internationals Simo Valakari and Jonatan Johansson.

"Markku Kanerva has been a long-time member in FA of Finland's national team coaching staff," Alaja said. He and his staff will form a domestic, but at the same time very international coaching team. All four individuals have enormous player experience in different countries, but they also have been coaching in multiple different environments.

"The three-year commitment speaks for itself and our main goal has been set to the next qualifiers. However, this does not mean that we are not hoping to collect points in the ongoing qualification campaign."