Enter the 'magician' -
The Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) have taken a massive gamble that local football great, Russell Latapy, with only rookie coaching experience, can successfully take charge of the T&T senior team during a World Cup qualifying campaign.
Previous to being appointed Maturana's assistant coach in January, Latapy had served as assistant to Reserve Division coach Brian Rice, who was himself only the assistant to first team head-coach John Hughes at Scottish Premier League club Falkirk. Latapy's first test as national boss comes in Trinidad and Tobago's next 2010 World Cup qualifying match at home to Costa Rica on June 6, followed by an away clash with Mexico on June 10.
Latapy, 40, expressed delight at his new role yesterday.
"I'm absolutely delighted with being given the opportunity to be coach of my country's national team. It's something I've always wanted to do and the people who've been involved with me in football and from a family standpoint over the years all know this. Aside from playing the game and always trying to help my country, my main ambition was always to coach the national team. I would like to thank the Association for giving me this opportunity," Latapy told TTFF Media.
Latapy's appointment came after Maturana and his coaching staff, consisting of Maturana, assistant-coach Cesar Maturana and physical trainer Jorge Ruiz resigned their positions.
A TTFF media release termed it an "interim measure."
The release stated in part that, "the technical coaching staff led by Mr. Francisco Maturana have offered their resignations to the Executive Committee of the TTFF due to differences in opinions regarding the way forward in the FIFA 2010 World Cup Qualification Campaign for South Africa. The resignations were subsequently accepted by the Executive Committee of the TTFF.
"The T&TFF wishes to thank coach Francisco Maturana and his technical staff for their service to our nation's football these past months. In the meantime, as an interim measure, the senior team will be coached by Russell Latapy assisted by Zoran Vranes, successful coach of the National Under-20 team."
Maturana leaves T&T with a winning record of 18 wins, eight draws and six losses in 32 matches .
Having coached Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, as well as several clubs including Athletico Madrid, there was no doubt about Maturana's pedigree.
His defeats came against England (3-0); twice against the USA by the same 3-0 margin; and 2-1 against both Bermuda and Grenada. But Maturana didn't seem a natural fit for T&T football where there was constant criticism of his selection policies and the quality of play on the field.
Maturana's defeats have come at crucial times, like in World Cup qualifiers, where T&T were twice embarrassed by the USA; when Bermuda won 2-1 in the opening qualifier for the 2010 South Africa World Cup; and when minnows Grenada won 2-1 and knocked T&T out of the Caribbean Cup at the semi-final stage for the first time and more importantly, prevented them qualifying for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Those hiccups may have ultimately led to his undoing.