A star-studded team is no guarantee of success. There are many other factors that come into play—luck, of course, but also the ability to strategize, spot the opposition’s weaknesses, devise tactics, make the best use of the players, and react quickly to changing situations. And, here’s where the manager plays the most crucial role.

The best example of a team of superstars failing tactically would be Brazil’s 1982 side. Despite a line up comprising the likes of Zico, Socrates, Falcao and Junior, they failed to reach the semi-finals to earn the uncharitable tag of being the greatest Brazilian team to never win a World Cup. Brazil’s campaign ended in a defeat not to Italy, but in its inability to play to a plan to neutralise the opposition. And, manager Tele Santana had to step down.

Considering no foreign manager has won a World Cup so far, it could be a sound strategy to begin with a local manager. And, in the 2018 edition of the World Cup, 20 of the 32 managers are in charge of their own countries. Argentina is the most represented nationality on the touchline with four managers — five if we consider Argentina-born Juan Antonio Pizzi. No other country has more than two.

The title contenders have experienced local managers, well-versed with the traditional styles of their national team, while most smaller teams have opted either for foreign expertise or local hands who lack international exposure.

Here’s a look at the men who provide the deft touch from the touchline.

Group A

Hector Cuper, 62, Egypt

Cuper guided Valencia to two successive Champions League finals but didn’t win either. He now gets a go on the biggest stage of all, with Mohamed Salah-led Egypt.

Stanislav Cherchesov, 54, Russia

The former Russia international had a series of managerial assignments in his home country, but is a greenhorn at the top level. Cherchesov’s brief will be to help the home team—saddled with injuries—avoid humiliation.

Juan Antonio Pizzi, 49, Saudi Arabia

Pizzi won the Copa America with Chile in his last assignment. But he has a much tougher job with Saudi Arabia, having got the job as recently as November 2017.

Oscar Tabarez. Photo: Reuters
Oscar Tabarez. Photo: Reuters

Oscar Tabarez, 71, Uruguay

The veteran coach, credited with the revival of Uruguayan football, has been at the helm of affairs of the national team for the last 12 years, and has been a mentor to the existing squad.

Group B

Herve Renard, 49, Morocco

The two-time Africa Cup of Nations champion has proven pedigree at the continental level. In Morocco’s array of gifted players, Renard has the ingredient to help the team play some good football.

Fernando Santos, 63, Portugal

Santos did the unthinkable by winning Portugal the Euros in 2016, but a bunch of that vintage has faded and the main defenders are on the wrong side of the 30s. However, he has Cristiano Ronaldo.

Carlos Quieroz, 65, Iran

The long-serving Iranian manager has built a reputation for pragmatic football. Being in a group with teams that thrive on football of flair will have Quieroz rubbing his hands in glee.

Julen Lopetegui. Photo: AFP
Julen Lopetegui. Photo: AFP

Julen Lopetegui, 51, Spain

His last job at club level ended with him getting the boot at Porto, but Lopetegui has shown that he is a different beast in international football. Spain have a gifted squad and the onus is on Lopetegui to guide them to glory.

Group C

Age Hareide, 64, Denmark

Hareide has won league titles across Scandinavia but lacks managerial experience elsewhere. He has made some puzzling selections in leaving out Daniel Wass and Riza Durmisi. It isn’t a bright outlook for the Danes.

Ricardo Gareca, 60, Peru

Gareca has done a commendable job of guiding Peru to their first World Cup in 36 years, but they lack quality to do a whole lot in Russia.

Bert van Marwijk, 66, Australia

Van Marwijk took the Netherlands to the final of the 2010 World Cup. But that was then. Many were left puzzled by the Australian FA’s decision to give him the job.

Didier Deschamps. Photo: AFP
Didier Deschamps. Photo: AFP

Didier Deschamps, 49, France

The 1998 World Cup-winning captain has never convinced in his managerial stint for Les Bleus. However, he has made some untypically brave selections for Russia.

Group D

Heimir Hallgrimsson, 50, Iceland

A professional manager as well as a dentist, Hallgrimsson has done wonders just by guiding a nation of about 330,000 inhabitants to the World Cup. With the quality at his disposal, he will be eager for more.

Zlatko Dalic, 51, Croatia

After starting out in Balkan leagues, Dalic moored in West Asia before Croatia came calling last October. He has a gifted squad to work with, but his top-level inexperience could be a hindrance.

Gernot Rohr, 64, Nigeria

Rohr has a wealth of managerial experience in Africa but lacks tournament pedigree. And with Nigeria not particularly teeming with quality, Rohr’s task won’t get any easier.

Jorge Sampaoli. Photo: AFP
Jorge Sampaoli. Photo: AFP

Jorge Sampaoli, 58, Argentina

Sampaoli has proven pedigree at both the club and international level. His appointment was hailed as the right one by most observers. Despite Lionel Messi in his ranks, Sampaoli has his work cut out.

Group E

Oscar Ramirez, 53, Costa Rica

Ramirez helped Costa Rica secure qualification for Russia with relative ease but replicating their quarter-final run from four years ago will be difficult.

Mladen Krstajic, 44, Serbia

Krstajic, who was known for his composure and defensive solidity in his playing days, will look to transfer some of that to his team. Expectations of a pragmatic approach from a team with proven defensive talent won’t be amiss.

Vladimir Petkovic, 54, Switzerland

Petkovic won the Coppa Italia in his previous job with Lazio, and did well with the resources at his disposal at the 2016 Euros. But with the Swiss placed in a relatively tough group, making the knockouts will be an achievement.

Tite. Photo: AP
Tite. Photo: AP

Tite, 57, Brazil

To his credit and to the fans’ delight, Tite has brought joga bonito and the fluid artistry back to the Brazilian team. Not one to hold his players from expressing themselves, Tite will fancy his chances of hoisting the coveted trophy come mid-July.

Group F

Juan Carlos Osorio, 56, Mexico

Once Sir Alex Ferguson’s understudy, Osorio has imbibed a few qualities of his mentor. Attack-minded and a detailed planner, he also has fits of anger on the touchline, much like the fabled Scot.

Shin Tae-yong, 49, South Korea

The South Korea job fell to Shin after Uli Stielike was unceremoniously sacked last summer. A proven manager at the club level, Shin is yet to be tested by quality opposition in internationals.

Janne Andersson, 55, Sweden

Andersson’s men pipped the Netherlands in their group and then Italy in the playoffs to qualify for Russia. He is well aware of his team’s limitations and will look to maximise their best qualities.

Joachim Low. Photo: AFP
Joachim Low. Photo: AFP

Joachim Low, 58, Germany

Low has a far better team in this edition than what he had four years ago when Germany won the World Cup. So, a fifth title will be a reasonable target.

Group G

Roberto Martinez, 44, Belgium

Martinez, despite winning an FA Cup with Wigan, was consistently found out of his depth during his club stints. To make matters worse, his methods at Belgium have been openly questioned by his star player, Kevin De Bruyne.

Hernan Dario Gomez, 62, Panama

Having guided Panama to their World Cup debut, Gomez’s place in the history book is secure. Anything more in Russia will be a bonus.

Nabil Maaloul, 55, Tunisia

Maaloul is an African treble winner with ES Tunis. But qualifying for the second round in Russia, especially with the injury-induced absence of his team’s talisman Youssef Msakni is difficult to imagine.

Gareth Southgate. Photo: Reuters
Gareth Southgate. Photo: Reuters

Gareth Southgate, 47, England

He didn’t want it initially, but the English job was thrust upon Southgate. To the surprise of many, he has shown himself to be competent.

Group H

Aliou Cisse, 42, Senegal

Cisse captained Senegal in their memorable World Cup debut in 2002 when they defeated holders France. Now, the team’s second qualification has come under his management. With a talented squad under his helm, Senegal can again be magical.

Adam Nawalka, 60, Poland

In his five years in charge, Poland have consistently improved. They easily qualified for Russia and if that trajectory were to continue, Poland can cause a few surprises.

Akira Nishino, 63, Japan

Nishino got the job just two months ago after Japan unceremoniously sacked Vahid Halilhodzic. That’s nowhere near enough time to prepare a team, especially for a World Cup, no matter how good the managerial ability.

Jose Pekerman. Photo: AFP
Jose Pekerman. Photo: AFP

Jose Pekerman, 68, Colombia

The veteran statesman of international football management, Pekerman is now in his sixth year with Colombia. With a raft of quality players, the team could be the dark horses in Russia

Also read: Mint’s preview of all eight groups at the 2018 FIFA World Cup

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