After two losses in his first two games in charge of the Israel national team – followed by quite a bit of criticism – Israel coach Andreas Herzog continues to power on.
Herzog looked rather indifferent to the environment against Albania and Northern Ireland, but in no way did he appear to feel comfortable on the big stage.
On Tuesday night, Herzog looked completely different from the way he displayed himself on the sidelines in Albania. The 49-year-old’s face illustrated how bitter the pill had been after his 1-0 debut defeat to Albania in the Nations League group stage.
The Austrian arrived with a tailored suit and, as previously, rarely moved on the sidelines. After the third goal in a 3-0 friendly loss to Northern Ireland, Herzog looked in the direction of the bench with a helpless expression. After the game his answers at the press conference were quite repetitive.
“A good first half – a bad second half” and “need to create more opportunities,” were more or less the same sentences he said in different versions.
Almost 10 days have passed since Herzog revealed to his players the 3-5-2 strategy they will have to get used to, a method of playing with three defenders and only two forwards. In fact, last Monday, the first day of the official gathering, the Austrian tried to assimilate the new method and the players received the news in surprise.
The first training session was open to the general public, where Herzog seemed a bit detached from the environment and tried to get words to his assistant, Alon Hazan, as an interpreter when necessary. Indeed, in the games themselves it seemed that Hazan was the more dominant character on the lines.
But back to the first workout. The Austrian tried mainly to take advantage of Eran Zahavi’s return to the national team in order to connect with the local crowd and while an Austrian media team was accompanying him, the coach approached the crowd and stood next to the former captain. The resulting image naturally drew the cameras in their direction.
At the same time, Willy Rotensteiner, the team’s technical director, seemed very much involved and very active in the various events. It is not difficult to understand where the question came from – whether Herzog is really the coach of the team or just a “puppet” of Rotensteiner?
Earlier that same day, a press conference was held where Rotensteiner spoke with enthusiasm and determination. Herzog, for his part, spoke more calmly and modestly while the technical director nodded, as if to confirm his words. It was not by chance that Herzog moved quickly to the back offices, while Rotensteiner remained in the room and spoke to the audience. At the airport on the way to Albania it was again Rotensteiner who went out to talk to the journalists and explain the work plan of the two in detail.
Herzog’s personality can be divided into two – one appears at the pregame press conferences and training that sounds very convincing and confident. On the other hand, the same person is one who after the losses tries to provide more excuses than to say things directly, speaks with uncertainty and is careful every word that comes out of his mouth.
So one can argue with conjecture that this move could turn into a positive outcome, but based on the early facts, it is difficult to do so. Herzog did not meet the two tasks he had set before him at the beginning, and one could say more than that, his initial optimism almost seems like a pipe-dream.
This is only the beginning of his tenure, but it will be interesting to see whether Herzog will succeed in reinventing himself with the Israel national team or whether it will be another coach who passed through the blue-and-white just like the wind.