Agence France Presse

Lisbon, July 4:

To the winners go the spoils, to the losers — in at least half a dozen cases this time round - the sack. Parting is sweet sorrow at a European Championship as with every other major event which comes around only once every four seasons — and this one will signal the biggest changing of the continental guard in recent memory. No fewer than six of the 16 nations who turned up to joust in the Portuguese sun over the past month have dispensed with their coach and more are likely to follow, although Portugal’s Brazilian mentor Luiz Felipe Scolari and Greco-German Otto Rehhagel are both sitting comfortably.

French coach Jacques Santini was already on the way out before the event even started. Joining him in the out tray were Croatia’s Otto Baric and Bulgaria’s Plamen Markov while the Netherlands Dick Advocaat held out the strong possibility that he will also head for the exit door next week. Never before in the international game has the coaching merry-go-round spun at such a rate. Forced into a period of rebuilding, several top countries will have to effect that process from the top down, as well as the bottom up, after a swathe of retirements from the international scene by top stars who Father Time has caught up on.

Dutch Jaap Stam and Frank de Boer are stepping down, while Portuguese midfield star Rui Costa said on Saturday he will do the same after the final.

Pavel Nedved is also on the way out, as is fellow veteran Karel Poborsky, while the Portuguese will, along with Rui Costa, soon likely bid farewell to 34-year-old Fernando Couto.

Even the leader of the hosts’ golden generation, Luis Figo, while still young enough to make the 2006 World Cup, is unlikely to feature after that. Disappointing Italy have to inject new blood as the likes of Christian Vieri come under threat from emerging talents such as Antonio Cassano. Sweden will also have a job replacing the evergreen Henrik Larsson, who came out of retirement for the tournament to great effect.