Handicapping the 2018 World Cup Managers
Being the manager is a national team in soccer is among the planet's most thankless jobs. If you win it's not because of you but because of the star players who play for you. But if you lose it's entirely your fault. They have ridiculously bad job security. Because of that they often don't have much loyalty - guys bounce from country to country without a thought as long as there is a paycheck to be had. As we move closer and closer to the World Cup this year here is a capsule look at eight of the more interesting characters amongst the 32 head coaches in the 2018 World Cup field:
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Joachim Low, Germany : Low is the highest-paid manager in the field, and no one could argue with that. He is the defending champion and has been consistently excellent since taking over the team after the 2006 World Cup. His squad was the runner-up at Euro 2008 and made the semis the next two times the tourney was played. And on top of the 2014 World Cup win he also has a third-place finish from 2010. That's five major tournaments without a misfire. And he won the Confederations Cup last year, for what that's worth, as well. The guy can coach, and he comes with yet another loaded squad that is co-favored with Brazil to win it all at +450.
Tite, Brazil: Tite is new to the international coaching game, but he is no stranger to coaching success. He has had a long and distinguished career, with the highlight being three stints with legendary Brazilian squad Corinthians, which was capped by a win in the FIFA Club World Cup. He took over this team in June of 2016 after previous manager Dung (no joke - that's actually his name) was fired after Brazil struggled at the Copa America. Tite won seven straight qualifying games to cement his position and restore confidence around the program.
Didier Deschamps, France: Deschamps is a former midfielder for France who earned 103 caps. He took over this program in 2012 after a disappointing Euro appearance cost his predecessor his job. Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup was a little scary, but they made it and advanced to the quarterfinals. They then signaled that France was back as a factor by finishing second in Euro 2016. Deschamps keeps earning extensions to his contract with each success. He's currently signed through Euro 2020, so his goal here is to earn himself the right to attend another World Cup.
Gareth Southgate, England: England is a proud football nation with high expectations. Southgate, though, is the 11th manager since the last time the team had a major tournament appearance that wasn't mostly a disappointment - a semifinal appearance in Euro 1996. The last manager, Sam Allardyce, lasted in the role for only one game before being fired in a scandal, so the team badly needed stability when Southgate was hired. And so far he has provided it. They handily won their group in qualifying and have a fairly safe path to the playoff here. The manager who wins anything of note for England will be a national hero. Maybe Southgate can shine where so many others have faltered.
Jorge Sampaoli, Argentina: Alejandro Sabella retired from coaching after a successful run to the finals at World Cup 2014. Since then, Sampaoli is the third manager is charge of this team. He took over last May when Argentina was stuck in fifth place in CONMEBOL qualifying - only the Top 4 are guaranteed a spot in the World Cup. He stabilized things and moved the squad up to third, but it remains to be seen if he truly has put all the drama in the rearview mirror.
Stanislav Cherchesov, Russia: No one will face more pressure in this tournament than Cherchesov. He was hired in 2016 with the specific task of making the semifinals in this tourney on home soil. That won't happen, of course - the world's finest manager couldn't pull off that miracle - so it remains to be seen what happens to Cherchesov after the tournament.
Carlos Queiroz, Iran: Queiroz is Portuguese, but he's a world traveler when it comes to managing national teams. He had his first stint with Portugal from 1991-93, which was very early in his career. In 1998 he took over UAE for a couple of years before moving to South Africa. He impressively got the South Africans qualified for the 2012 World Cup, but he left that program in march of 2012 after a falling out with the federation. He earned a four-year contract to manage Portugal for a second time in 2008, but after struggling through qualification and then scoring in only one of four World Cup games in 2010 he was axed. He took over Iran soon after. He managed to get them qualified, and they earned a draw and played Argentina very tight in a 1-0 loss. That was good enough to get him extended until this tournament and another qualification. Here he gets a chance for revenge as he is in a group with Portugal.
Bert van Marwijk, Australia: No coach will be less familiar with his team in this tournament than this dutchman - he took over coaching only on Jan. 24 of 2018, which was well after qualification was over. This is his third stint in charge of a national team, though. He took over the Dutch team after Euro 2008 and promptly took them to the finals of the 2010 World Cup. He was a hero and was given a contract extension through both the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016. That happiness was short-lived, though - the team didn't score a single goal at Euro 2012, and van Marwijk resigned before he was fired. Van Marwijk next took over a national program in 2015 when he helmed Saudi Arabia to an unlikely berth in the tournament. He didn't get the contract extension he wanted, though, and left soon after qualifying ended. Interestingly, van Marwijk was briefly replaced in Saudi Arabia by Edgardo Bauza, who was fired after just two months. Bauza had coached UAE for four months prior to his Saudi stint, but he failed to qualify them for the tournament. And before that he had a seven-month stint with Argentina, where he was replaced by Jorge Sampaoli.
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