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Niko Kovac sacked as Croatian national head coach

from:新华网2015-09-10 10:55

A file photo taken on June 11, 2015 shows Croatia's national soccer team head coach Niko Kovac reacts during a press conference before a training session.

A file photo taken on June 11, 2015 shows Croatia's national soccer team head coach Niko Kovac reacts during a press conference before a training session. Croatian Football Federation have sacked Kovac following 0-0 draw in Azerbaijan and a 2-0 defeat in Norway. (Xinhua/Miso Lisanin)

ZAGREB, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- Members of Executive Board of Croatian Football Federation (CFF) sacked Niko Kovac as national team head coach at the meeting held on Wednesday in Zagreb.

Their decision was unanimous and effective immediately ending Kovac's reign less than two years after he was appointed as national head coach.

It was a string of poor results, a 0-0 draw at Baku against Azerbaijan and 2-0 defeat at Oslo against Norway, that led to Kovac's sacking and his public disputes with players didn't help his case.

"Before the trip to Baku and Oslo none of us imagined that this day would come. The result is always the main guideline and it is crucial for Croatia to reach EURO

2016. We hope to overcome this crisis and see a major tournament in France once again," CFF president Davor Suker said at the media conference after the Executive

Board meeting.

"Niko Kovac accepted this decision as a gentleman," added Suker.

Kovac was in charge of the national team since October 2013 and he came as a substitution for his former Croatia teammate Igor Stimac.

He led Croatia through successful qualifying playoff for the 2014 World Cup against Iceland. At the World Cup in Brazil Croatia was eliminated in the group stage having lost against Brazil in the World Cup opener, beating Cameroon and losing to Mexico in the decisive match.

He was widely criticized but he survived and successfully started Croatia's qualifying campaign for EURO 2016 earning 14 out of possible 18 points and taking the lead in the qualifying group.

But, after earning just one point in the last two matches and falling to the third place behind Italy and Norway after loosing additional point due to the penalty imposed on CFF from UEFA because of the Croatian supporters bad behavior, Kovac lost his job.

"Even though the name of my successor is not yet known, I would like to wish him, whoever that might be, a lot of good luck in the remaining qualifying matches and I hope that he will produce great result at EURO 2016," Niko Kovac wrote in his open letter published on CFF official website.

In the two remaining matches in the EURO 2016 qualifiers Croatia will host Bulgaria behind closed doors and travel to Malta.

Croatia need all six points and Italy earning at least a point at home against Norway to qualify directly without going through qualifying playoff.

President Suker and national team technical director Romeo Jozak will make a list and interview possible candidates for Kovac's replacement and come up with the name before the members of the Executive Board at the meeting on September 21.

"No coach can guarantee success, but we hope to find the right person and win the remaining two matches," Davor Suker said.

Croatian media see experienced 61-year old Ante Cacic, head coach of Croatian First division team Lokomotiva Zagreb, and 53-year old Nenad Gracan, current U-21 national team head coach, as front runners for the job.

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