Benjaminas Zelkevicius has brought an end to his second spell as coach of the Lithuania national team after two years back in charge.
The Lithuanian Football Federation (LFF) announced today that it had accepted the resignation of Zelkevicius, who has opted to concentrate on his club coaching duties with Russian second division side FC Baltika Kaliningrad. The 59-year-old Zelkevicius had said he was unable to maintain both positions and repeatedly made it clear that he would put his club role first.
His departure appeared imminent after last week's 2-1 defeat by Latvia in a friendly international in Turkey. Julius Kvedaras, the LFF's executive director, suggested the coach's resignation was down to, in some part, to his squad, saying: "The attitude of some of the national team players has influenced Zelkevicius's decision. They came to the national team unprepared and were not determined to play well."
However, the LFF had indicated they were not happy with the coach's performance either. Lithuania have picked up only three points from their first three qualifiers in UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying Group 5. Zelkevicius, previously Lithuania coach between 1995 and 1997, returned to the role in December 2000.
Current Lithuania Under-21 coach Algimantas Liubinskas is tipped to succeed Zelkevicius. Liubinskas was in charge of Lithuania's senior team when, after a 50-year absence, the country returned to world football after independence in 1992.
Three years later, Liubinskas was sacked by the LFF and replaced by Zelkevicius. Valdas Ivanauskas, considered one of Lithuania's finest former players, is expected to join the coaching team. Whoever takes over will face a tough opening - Lithuania's next qualifier is away to FIFA World Cup finalists Germany on 29 March.
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