Portuguese National Soccer team

Special for the Armenian Weekly

Following Armenia’s dramatic 2-1 qualifying defeat at the hands of Albania on March 29 at the Elbasan Arena, head coach Bernard Challandes tendered his resignation from his managerial position, a job he had held for just over one year. He vacates the post exactly halfway through the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with just a solitary point to show for his exploits, having failed to secure a win from four games played. Results since he took over have been disappointing and ultimately fell short of the high expectations both fans and FFA President Ruben Hayrapetyan had held for this campaign.

Sargis Hovsepyan was announced as his replacement on April 28, and will take the reins for Armenia’s next match versus Portugal on June 13 in a caretaker role. Hovsepyan is the most capped Armenian player in history, having donned the national team jersey 132 times in a playing capacity, in a career that spanned more than 20 years. Since his retirement as a player in 2012, Hovsepyan has cut his teeth in management with FC Pyunik in the Armenian domestic top flight, as well as having spells with the Armenian under 19 and under 21 sides, picking up the necessary B and A coaching badges along the way.

The change may have come a little too late to salvage the current campaign, as Armenia sits at the bottom of the Group I table on one point, and a distant six points from the third place play-off berth. One consolation for Hovsepyan is the fact that three of the upcoming fixtures will be played at home. Having been a hero to the faithful Armenian fans down through the years as a player, there is no doubt the supporters will do everything they can to ensure that his tenure is successful. The fact that Hovsepyan has played alongside the senior players and has coached the younger players coming through is also a positive. It will ensure that the current players buy in to any changes and tactical adjustments he’ll be bringing to the table.

Armenia has been struggling on the defensive side of the ball recently, failing to secure wins after having held leads in three of their first four qualifying matches under Challandes. That is a fact that Challandes is left to lament and Hovsepyan is left to deal with. Hovsepyan has a wealth of defensive experience and that should bode well for the team, as he tries to right the ship defensively and restore the confidence in the players, something that has slowly ebbed away over the past year under Challandes. There is also a lot to be said for having a homegrown appointment to the job. Having an Armenian coach, and particularly one who has given so much to the setup throughout his career, can be seen as another positive at this juncture of the campaign. There should be no motivation needed for players who line out for Hovsepyan next month.


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