Belfast Telegraph

Another one bites dust as Greeks dump Claudio Ranieri

By Steven Beacom

Claudio Ranieri's sacking as manager of Greece means that HALF of the bosses who started the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in Northern Ireland's group have left their posts.

First Attila Pinter was dismissed after Hungary had lost to Northern Ireland in September, last month Victor Piturca jumped ship from the Romanian hotseat to take charge of Saudi Arabian club Al Ittihad and at the weekend Ranieri, the Tinkerman himself, exited following a humiliating 1-0 home defeat to the Faroe Islands on Friday night.

Group F may not be considered the Group of Death, but it is turning out to be the Group of Departing managers!

One by one they go... akin to a murder mystery drama.

Michael O'Neill is as safe as houses with the Irish FA and Faroes coach Lars Olsen will probably be able to stay as long as he likes after the huge upset in Athens, which leaves Finland's Mixu Paatelainen, after an indifferent start to the Euro campaign, nervously looking over his shoulder.

In global football terms, though, whatever further changes of management there may be in Group F, none will be as high profile as Ranieri's exit from Greece.

The 63-year-old Italian is known the world over having coached numerous big clubs including Chelsea, Valencia, Parma, Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan and most recently Monaco, who he left in the summer.

Ranieri was appointed by Greece after the 2014 World Cup finals. There was much enthusiasm at the time, though it had waned somewhat by the time an in form Northern Ireland arrived in Athens in October with Greece having collected just one point from their opening two games.

In a pre-match press conference I asked Ranieri if he feared the sack should Northern Ireland defeat his team. His answer was colourful, but he also showed humour and a fair degree of confidence that he would turn things around.

He didn't. A 2-0 loss to Northern Ireland was followed by Friday's embarrassment against the Faroes, normally the whipping boys of any group they are in.

Greece were awful, lacking ideas in attack and character at the back. With one point from four games, and one of the worst defeats in the nation's history, the powers that be had to act.

Ranieri was sacked with a damning assessment from Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) president Giorgos Sarris, who said: "I take full responsibility for the most unfortunate choice of coach, which has resulted in such a poor image of the national team being put before the fans. The governing board will convene and take responsibility among all the members to make the necessary changes needed to avoid a repeat of such an embarrassing night."

Kostas Tsanas will step up from his role as Greek youth coach to take charge of the senior team for tomorrow's friendly with Serbia, though whether he is given the job on a permanent basis is unlikely, so expect a new name in the visiting dug-out when Greece visit Windsor Park next year.

Ranieri meanwhile will work out his financial settlement. His contract is said to be worth around 1.6m euro.

After the defeat to the Faroes, Ranieri said: "I have no words to explain what happened. We all wanted to record our first victory in the group, but the Faroes deserved to win as they created more chances to score."

Belfast Telegraph