At the 2014 FIFA World Cup, strikers will bear the burden of converting chances into goals, playmakers will be responsible for creating opportunities for the frontmen, defenders will have to silence opposition attackers and goalkeepers will be relied on to thwart shot after shot. But when it is all said and done, who will take the blame if things go awry and who will be ultimately lauded for the glory?
It will be the men in suits – the managers who decide who gets selected in their squad of 23, who makes the starting line-up and, most importantly, how the team plays. DEEPANRAJ GANESAN takes a look at five managers who are set to be in the spotlight when their teams take to the field in Brazil.
Luiz Felipe Scolari
There used to be a time, long before the tiki-taka shenanigans of Spain and the on-pitch beer fest deployed by Germany otherwise known as the “False 9 system”. The time was 2002 and the conquerors of the world during that period were a Brazil side led by a certain Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Entering the 2002 World Cup with the odds totally stacked against them due to the difficulty they had in qualifying, a Scolari-led Brazil emerged champions. Twelve years on, the man has been handed the task of doing it again, only this time he is accompanied by the expectations of a country wanting the Selecao to finally lift the coveted trophy on home soil.
A Scolari-led Brazil squad would not be the same if there was not an omission of a star player. Back in 2002, Big Phil left out Brazilian legend Romario despite the public appeal for his inclusion. This time, the gaffer has doubled the dosage, leaving out two of the most popular players in Ronaldinho and Kaka.
Since he left the Brazil post after the 2002 victory, Scolari has gone on to rather unsuccessful spells with Portugal, English juggernauts Chelsea and Brazilian club Palmeiras. Now, in a romantic reunion with the national football team of Brazil, Scolari’s bold team selection will come under scrutiny if he is unable to deliver the success the country is yearning for.
Will the shoes of his own 2002 success be too big for Big Phil to fill?
Vicente Del Bosque
From one big man to another. The question is, though, does it get any bigger than Vicente Del Bosque? Forget the man’s physical stature; it is worth remembering that the Spain head coach is the only manager to have won the European Championship, UEFA Champions League and the FIFA World Cup.
Appointed in 2008 after the resignation of the late Luis Aragones who stepped down after leading Spain to victory in Euro 2008, Del Bosque continued on from where his predecessor let off. Combining the famed tiki-taka that had been birthed by Aragones along with rigidness at the back, Del Bosque and Spain conquered the world in 2010 at the World Cup before success at Euro 2012.
A man who relies on the tried and tested, Del Bosque has stuck with Spanish national team mainstays Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres despite the players’ lack of form with their club sides. The burly manager’s best decision may have already been made even before a ball is kicked in Brazil at the tournament.
La Liga sensation and Brazil-born Diego Costa, who netted 27 goals in 35 games for Atletico Madrid, opted to play for Spain after having talks with the Spainish manager, providing La Roja with the all-important firepower in front of goal.
He has won it all in the last decade, but with the challenge of being the first team outside of South America to win the cup in the continent lying in wait, can Del Bosque re-invent a predictable Spain and make history once again?
For every master, there is an apprentice. There is no better way to describe Germany’s head coach Joachim Löw than to brand him as one. A look at his CV shows that the only major trophies Löw has to show for are the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) with Stuttgart, the Austrian League with FC Tirol Innsbruck and an Austrian Cup with FK Austria Wien. His time at club level also involved unimpressive stints with Turkish clubs Fenerbahçe and Adanaspor where he was sacked for failing to deliver results.
When Jurgen Klinsmann took over as Germany head coach in 2004, the German legend roped in Löw, who he had met in a coaching school, to be his right-hand man. Together, Klinsmann and Löw developed an attacking philosophy that transformed a German team that had stagnated since their 2002 World Cup final loss against Brazil.
Germany would go on to impress the watching faithful with brilliant attacking displays in the 2006 World Cup en route to finishing third. But, in the media and among people close to the team, Löw was lauded for his contribution as a “tactical genius”. When Klinsmann departed after deciding not to renew his contract, Löw was rewarded with replacing Klinsmann as the new head coach of Germany.
The 2014 World Cup will be Löw’s first World Cup as a head coach, after finishing as runners-up in Euro 2008 and semi-finalists in Euro 2012. If Löw is to shed his apprentice tag, then his defining moment will have to be in Brazil.
Will Löw be able to scale the heights this time or will the tournament be another low for the German?
Louis Van Gaal
On May 19 this year, after weeks of speculation, Manchester United announced that Dutchman Louis Van Gaal would replace the sacked David Moyes as their new manager. Tasked with replicating the success of a certain Scot known as Sir Alex Ferguson, Van Gaal has his work cut out for him. But first, the veteran manager will need to focus on his current task at hand, which will be to steer Holland out of a tough group consisting of Spain and Chile before marching on to try and win the 2014 World Cup.
Van Gaal has enjoyed successful stints wherever he has gone. His time at Ajax, Bayern Munich, AZ Alkmaar and Barcelona yielded a whopping 19 trophies. Of those, there was a Champions League triumph with Ajax, two La Liga wins with Barcelona and a Cup and League double with Bayern Munich. There is no arguing with the man’s success but his methods have often come under fire.
One of his former players at Barcelona, Giovanni, a Brazil international had this to say about the coachd: “Van Gaal is the Hitler of the Brazilian players, he is arrogant, proud and has a problem. He has no idea of football. His type is sick, he’s crazy.”
Van Gaal is also one to blow his own trumpet. At the press conference announcing him as the new Barcelona coach, the Dutchman said: “I have achieved more with Ajax in six years than Barcelona has in one hundred years.”
Will Van Gaal live up to his own hype at the 2014 World Cup?
The perennial under-achievers go into the 2014 tournament with a massive task at hand. Having been grouped with Italy and Uruguay, not many are giving England a chance to get past the first round in Brazil. But in stark contrast, the man who will be tasked to get them over the line will be arguably football’s main overachiever.
In a managerial career that has spanned 38 years, Roy Hodgson has made big wins with Europe’s smaller outfits. He won seven Swedish league titles with Malmö FF and Halmstads, as well as a Danish cup and league double with FC Copenhagen.
Hodgson also brought unfancied Fulham to the Europe League final, beating Juventus in the semi-finals en route, and even helped the Swiss national team to their all-time record high of third in the FIFA world rankings.
Hodgson had also taken over at Inter Milan when the Italian giants were in dire straits. Taking over when Inter were bottom of the league, he guided them to seventh place by the end of the season. As club president Massimo Moratti later said: “Roy Hodgson was an important person in the development of Inter Milan to the point we have reached today. He left an endowment to this club that’s important in our history.”
Liverpool fans, though, will not be fond of the manager, especially after his uninspiring spell at Anfield from 2010-2011.
Placing faith in youth at the World Cup, Hodgson has called up the likes of Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw while leaving out veteran Ashley Cole.
A man who always brings the best out of the smaller nations and clubs, the 2014 tournament presents Hodgson with a perfect opportunity. As pundits, experts and fans rule out England from making a serious challenge at the World Cup, can Hodgson prove to be the messiah of the underdogs again?