World Cup coaches close-up

Sharp tacticians or charismatic leaders, the coaches present at this year's World Cup are a diverse bunch, but their objective is one and the same: victory. takes a closer look.


The heavyweights

Fabio Capello – Italian

Team: England

Age: 63

Named coach in December 2007, Fabio Capello had to quickly tend to an England side left traumatised by its failure to qualify for Euro 2008. The fact that an Italian was brought in by the nation that boasts about having invented football indicated the gravity of the situation. Rigorous, experienced, and charismatic, “Don Fabio” wasted no time getting things in order and restoring confidence in his star players. The result was that Wayne Rooney and his teammates easily qualified for South Africa, where many expect them to go all the way. Thanks to whom?

Ottmar Hitzfeld – German

Team: Switzerland

Age: 61

Nearing the end of a club career that saw him win no less than twenty titles, the former Dortmund and Bayern Munich coach accepted one last mission at the helm of a national team. The choice of Switzerland seemed a natural one -- since he grew up and began his coaching career there – to bring Hitzfeld full circle. Even if they are not going for the title, the Swiss team can legitimately aim to reach at least the last sixteen.

Marcello Lippi – Italian

Team: Italy

Age: 62

Six years ago, Marcello Lippi picked up an Italian team labelled by many as too old and led them to a famous victory at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Basking in his glory, the former Juventus coach then passed the torch to the inexperienced Roberto Donadoni. After Italy’s middling campaign at Euro 2008, Lippi returned to the rescue in a risky move for the highly regarded football tactician. Though the title holders hardly feature among the favourites, their coach will be keen to make history by bringing home a second consecutive World Cup trophy.

The strivers

Vicente Del Bosque – Spain

Team: Spain

Age: 59

If he were less modest, Vicente Del Bosque could brag about being the last coach to have led Real Madrid to Champions League glory, in 2002. This hard-working, mustachioed trainer took over the Spanish team in 2008, just after they had snagged the European Championship title. Del Bosque was wise enough to use the same young, talented group of players to win all qualifying matches for the World Cup. With la Roja favoured by bookmakers to take home its first World Cup title, Del Bosque’s main task may well be to keep his players from becoming overly confident.

Dunga – Brazil

Team: Brazil

Age: 46

Named coach of the Brazilian national team by default in 2006, Dunga’s diligent work has forced sceptics to hold their tongues. The former captain of the 1994 world champions lacks coaching experience, but he is focused on success and is willing to sacrifice Brazil’s hallowed style of play in favour of efficiency. The result has been an America Cup title in 2007 and the Confederations Cup in 2009. Stronger in defence, but as spectacular as ever, Dunga’s players have only one thing on their mind: adding a sixth star to their jersey. Luckily for them, they have a coach for whom victory is the only thing that matters.

Diego Maradona – Argentina

Team: Argentina

Age: 49

Being the best player in the world does not necessarily make one a good coach. Named trainer of Argentina’s national team in 2008, Diego Maradona took time to adapt to his new role, as was illustrated by Argentina’s mediocre qualifying run.

Deprived of any real coaching experience, Maradona initially proved to be hesitant in choosing both his tactics and his players – a fact that did not go unnoticed back home. Known for his passion and penchant for provocation, Maradona is also aware that the stakes here are high. His image as Argentinian football’s living legend could fade if his team (which has won the title twice, in 1978 and 1986) is eliminated early on. On the other hand, victory in South Africa would make Maradona’s star shine even brighter.

Other hopefuls

Aside from these big names in world football, there are other coaches hoping to make their mark on this World Cup. Though he brought them to a second-place finish in 2006, French coach Raymond Domenech has had trouble leading his team through the qualifying rounds this year. The highly criticized coach is nevertheless confident about his team’s chances for victory this year.

Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira, who led his home team to the world championship in 1994, will be under immense pressure to lead the hosts, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, into the tournament’s second round.

As trainer of the Ivory Coast’s team since the end of March, former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson faces a tough task to qualify the African team from the “Group of Death”, featuring five-time champions Brazil, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and little-known North Korea.

German Joachim Lowe and Dutch Bert Van Marwijk coach their respective countries’ national teams, both traditional World Cup favourites. Having breezed through qualifying matches, they are hoping to maintain the same momentum on African soil.

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