JOHANNESBURG, Oct 19, 2009 (AFP) - World Cup hosts South Africa fired coach Joel Santana on Monday after eight losses in nine matches, a national football association spokesman said here.
The 60-year-old Brazilian tasked with building a team capable of holding its own at the 2010 tournament paid the price for a string of poor results and consistent refusal to accept criticism of his hyper-cautious underperformers.
|A file photo of coach Joel Santana (AFP file)|
After 1-0 defeats at European middleweights Norway and Iceland last week, the man appointed in mid-2008 said he had not been hired to win friendly fixtures.
Many South African Football Association (SAFA) officials considered this comment an insult to the nation and it became an issue of when rather than if he would be axed.
A SAFA statement said: "It was unanimously agreed on Monday between the South African Football Association and senior national coach Joel Santana that he would vacate his position with immediate effect.
"In the interim the SAFA management committee resolved that (assistant coaches) Jairo Leal and Pitso Mosimane would assume the role of caretakers, pending a decision by the national executive at an October 23 meeeting.
"The president of the association, Kirsten Nematandani, thanked Santana for his efforts to date and wished him success in all future ventures," the statement added.
"Similarly, Santana took the opportunity to thank the association, his technical staff, his players and the country for their support, and wished Bafana Bafana (team nickname) every success at the 2010 World Cup."
Santana, who had no previous national team experience, was under pressure from his debut, a 2-0 away loss to Nigeria in a 2010 World Cup-African Nations Cup qualifier.
He later managed a run of five consecutive friendly victories, mainly against second-string African opposition, and received a surprisingly friendly media reception for finishing fourth as 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup hosts.
South Africa won just one of five games in the mini-World Cup, against minnows New Zealand, but holding eventual champions Brazil for 88 minutes in the semi-finals endeared Santana to success-starved local supporters.
Predecessor Carlos Alberto Parreira of Brazil and Dutchman Leon Beenhakker are among foreigners linked with the post, but South Africa may opt for a local coach like Gavin Hunt from premier league champions SuperSport United.
Hunt and former national coaches Jomo Sono and Clive Barker were asked by SAFA to compile a report on the Oslo and Reykjavik friendlies, but it has not been made public.
Firing the national football coach ahead of a World Cup is a South African tradition with Barker and Portuguese Carlos Queiroz being ousted just months before the 1998 and 2002 tournaments.
Barker made way for fiery Frenchman Philippe Troussier and Sono, one of the greatest footballers produced by South Africa, replaced Queiroz and led South Africa to its first World Cup finals victory, over Slovenia in South Korea.