Floro takes over as new Canadian soccer coach

Benito Floro has a lengthy resume that includes being in charge of Spanish giant Real Madrid from 1992 to 1994. (Firo Foto/Getty Images)

TORONTO – It took some time, but the Canadian Soccer Association found its man.

The CSA on Friday morning officially unveiled veteran Spanish manager Benito Floro as the new coach of the Canadian men’s soccer team, bringing to an end a lengthy and exhaustive international search process that took nine months.

Floro will officially start Aug. 1 but will attend the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup as an observer.

The Spaniard’s contract takes him through to the end of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and he will be assisted by his son Antonio Floro Esteve. Floro will also serve as head coach of the Canadian men’s Olympic (under-23) team.

CSA president Victor Montagliani explained Floro’s "vast international experience" made the Spaniard the best choice for the job. He also feels Floro has the ability to "change the culture" of soccer in Canada, and "influence how we move forward … in moulding the future" of the national team program.

"Over and above (improving) the team, it’s (expected Floro will) also work with our technical director (Tony Fonseca) and build a foundation, not only for the (2018) World Cup, but for World Cups moving forward," Montagliani said.

Floro called his appointment "a great honour."

"I hope to fulfill all the dreams of the country. It’s very difficult but we are going to work (towards) that," stated Floro, who speaks English and French, and will be based fulltime in Toronto.

Montagliani revealed he received roughly 100 applicants for the job and seriously considered 15 candidates from Canada and around the world. Montagliani said nobody else was offered the job before Floro accepted the CSA’s offer.

News of Floro’s appointment was first reported on Thursday by Marca, a Spanish national daily sports newspaper. Sportsnet.ca soon after confirmed his hiring by the CSA through independent sources close to the situation.

Asked if he had an overriding philosophy or a preferred style of play, Floro explained he wants to have his team play attacking soccer while using a defensive system that would allow Canada to enjoy possession.

Canada has been without a full-time coach since Stephen Hart stepped down last October following an 8-1 loss to Honduras, a result that officially eliminated the Canadian team from qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

In Floro, the CSA has hired an experienced and well-travelled club manager with a bit of pedigree.

Floro, 61, has been in charge of a number of teams during his lengthy career, including Real Madrid from 1992 to 1994. Los blancos won the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup during his managerial tenure.

Other clubs Floro has coached include Villarreal, Sporting Gijon, and Mallorca in Spain; Japanese outfit Vissel Kobe, Ecuador’s Barcelona SC, and CF Monterrey of Mexico. Most recently he was in charge of Moroccan side Wydad Athletic Club.

In 2005, Floro famously replaced Italian legend Arrigo Sacchi as Real Madrid’s sporting director.

Floro has never managed a national team, and he will have his work cut out for himself with his first assignment.

The Spaniard inherits a Canadian team in a state of disarray following the humbling at the hands of Honduras in San Pedro Sula. Since its elimination from World Cup qualifying, Canada has been in rebuilding mode, with interim coaches pushing the team’s core of veterans out the door in favour of young developing prospects.

The idea has been to try to give the youngsters as much playing time as possible in order to get them ready for the next World Cup qualifying cycle, but so far results on the field have been poor. Canada is winless in five friendlies (four losses and one draw) since the debacle in Honduras, with progress and improvement minimal.

Floro also inherits a national team program enveloped by a culture of losing, and marred by years of mismanagement and little achievement.

Canada’s lone appearance at the World Cup came in 1986 when it lost all three of its group stage games and returned home without even scoring a goal. Since then, seven full-time coaches have come and gone, and it’s been one failed World Cup qualifying campaign after another, with Canada last making it to "the Hex," the final group stage of the qualifiers, in 1998 – and even then it finished in last place.

Canada did manage to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup, but that was 13 years ago, and in light of recent failures, it feels even longer.

Although Floro has never been in charge of a national side, he does have experience in turning a team’s fortunes around in spectacular fashion.

In 1989, he took over Albacete Balompie, a modest outfit in Spain’s third division. Within two years he led the club to Spain’s topflight where it finished seventh during the 1991-92 campaign.

Real Madrid took notice and hired him to replace Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker. He guided los blancos to a second-place finish before being fired the following season and replaced by current Spanish national team manager Vicente del Bosque.

So maybe he’s a good fit for Canada in light of its current plight.

But then again, Floro has coached 16 different clubs during his career, never staying at one post for more than three years. Canada needs a manager who’s in it for the long haul, and that hasn’t been Floro’s track record.

Gold Cup ahead for Canada

Colin Miller is currently serving as Canada’s interim manager and will lead the team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which runs from July 7-28 in the United States.

Canada kicks off Gold Cup play on July 7 against Martinique in Pasadena, Calif. It then takes on Mexico in Seattle (July 11) and Panama in Denver (July 14). The top two teams from each of the three groups, plus the two highest-seeded third-place teams, will advance to the quarter-finals.

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