by Trevor Whenham - 04/18/2006
Get more World Cup betting information including betting bonuses, World Cup odds and our famous World Cup picks, which in 2006 earned $100 bettors over ten times their initial investment. ($100 bettors earned $1,820 click here for details)
Guus Hiddink is the coach that led the Netherlands to a fourth place finish in the 1998 World Cup. That result was expected from the strong Dutch side. What wasn't expected was that Hiddink led the upstart South Korean team to the same finish four years later. That result was the kind of thing that creates coaching legends.
Russia didn't manage to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, so they have turned to Hiddink to sprinkle some of his magic in Moscow. Hiddink has been signed to a contract worth $2.5 million per year plus bonuses to lead the Russian national team into qualifications for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. What's notable about that? Hiddink already has a job. He's the head coach of the Australian national team for the 2006 World Cup. His flirtation with Russia wasn't a sudden story, either. He had gone through a very public dance with England over their head coaching job before signing with Russia.
North American sports have seen some examples of coaches eyeing other jobs while they still have one. Larry Brown courted Cleveland and New York while coaching Detroit last year (Knicks fans probably wish he'd stayed in Michigan). Roy Williams' decision to leave Kansas for North Carolina came as a surprise to absolutely no one. Urban Meyer had to very publicly decide which high profile national program he would leave Utah for.
Despite those examples and dozens of others, however, we have yet to see a case where a coach has signed a contract with one team for the next season while this season hasn't even begun yet. That would be like Bill Parcells agreeing now to coach the Bears in 2007. After coaching Dallas this year. Even Parcells wouldn't mess with his employers like that. Yet this kind of thing happens all the time in soccer. The World Cup is still more than a month away from beginning, but the scramble is in full swing for new jobs after it is over.
Besides Hiddink, England is a site of coaching speculation in a couple of ways. Sven-Goran Eriksson has announced he will be leaving the head coaching post after the World Cup (perhaps he anticipates yet another English disappointment). He is in the midst of a public job search, reportedly pursuing, among others, Hiddink's Australian job. Virtually every coach in the world has been tied to the England job over the last couple of months, too.
Carlos Alberto Parreira of Brazil is the strong favorite to win it all in Germany and has arguably the best job in the world, but he is reportedly very interested in coaching South Africa as they host the 2010 World Cup. If Brazil's coach isn't content, who could be? Joining Parreira in eyeing the South African gig is Luiz Felipe Scolari, the coach who led Portugal to the finals of Euro 2004 and leads it into Germany. He is looking for a new job already, regardless of how well Portugal does in Germany. He has something in common with Parreira, too. Scolari left his post as Brazil's coach in 2002 after winning the World Cup.
What effect could all of this posturing and searching for greener pastures have on the players that have to play for the teams the coach can't wait to leave? How will Hiddink's Australian charges fare? Or Scolari's Portuguese? You would think that the media attention and speculation would distract the team. You would also think that the players would be quick to tune out a coach that is leaving anyway if things start going badly.
Think of all the college teams that lay an egg in their bowl game after their coach has moved up the coaching ladder. Or the NFL playoff games that have suffered because a key coordinator is all but signed to be head coach somewhere else when the game ends. The result in those circumstances is almost always negative, so does that mean that Australia and Portugal should be disregarded when you are making your World Cup bets? I would rule those teams out in any other sport for sure, but maybe soccer players are used to the ridiculousness of soccer's coaching carousel.
A big reason for the incredible lack of loyalty that soccer coaches seem to have for their teams has to be the lack of loyalty that the teams show their coaches. Even the NBA, which has a revolving door installed for coaches, is more patient than national soccer programs are. A single bad loss at a major tournament is reason enough to pull out the knife and ditch your coach, even if the team had been strong up to that point. Several coaches who are solid heroes in their countries as they prepare for Germany now will be vilified and jobless by the end of June.
The most extreme example of soccer coaching fickleness has to be Saudi Arabia. Gabriel Calderon is the coach who led them through qualification, but he was fired in December after a poor showing at the West Asian Games. His replacement, Marcos Paqueta, became the 15th National team coach for Saudi Arabia in 11 years. Since taking over he has had a couple of rough games and now rumors are flying that he is about to be replaced by Bora Milutinovic before Germany. Milutinovic has a resume only a soccer coach could have, too - he has coached a different team in each of the last five World Cups.
What does it all mean? Enjoy the 2006 World Cup. Bet lots. Just don't get used to any of the coaches. Chances are they are going to end up somewhere else. If they aren't already gone.