Johannesburg: From dour Dunga to the downright
eccentric Diego Maradona, the leading coaches at the World Cup
are plotting different ways to win the title.
Brazil coach Dunga has upset millions of his countrymen
by leaving big stars such as Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato and
Adriano out of a squad he believes needs stability to win a
sixth World Cup.
One of the game`s all time greats as a player, Maradona
has stunned the football world by ignoring hugely experienced
defenders Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso, who showed
their top form by helping Inter Milan win the Champions
Maradona has been unable to get the best out of stars
such as Lionel Messi and the football jury is out as to
whether such a great player will ever make it as a coach.
While the rejection of these top players seems crazy, no
will be complaining in Brazil if Dunga wins the title he won
as a player 16 years ago. And Maradona will achieve even
greater plaudits in Argentina if he justifies his selections
by capturing a third for his country.
While Dunga has a wealth of talent to choose from,
England`s Fabio Capello struggled to find genuinely top
quality players to complement the stars he has.
The Italian, who has had major club successes with AC
Milan and Real Madrid, knows he has the nucleus of a team to
get very close to winning the title. But he doesn`t have a
safe and reliable goalkeeper and can`t find the right partner
for Wayne Rooney in attack.
What he does have, however, is a technique to get these
millionaire stars to do what he wants, to behave smartly and
respectfully even at their team hotel where cell phones and
flip-flops are banned in public and the players dine together
as a team. The disciplinarian has also ordered his England
players to leave their wives and girlfriends - and millionaire
lifestyles - behind.
"Capello instills fear, like a severe dad," England
striker Wayne Rooney said of the England head coach. "He has
explained to us how to do everything. He has made us more of a
squad. He has worked above all on the tactics, now we can
change them every match."
While Capello has many players who are at their peak,
Italy`s Marcello Lippi, who guided the team to its triumph
four years ago, is trying to get one last effort from his
Lippi was persuaded to return to the role after a
disastrous spell by Roberto Donadoni, and it`s no surprise
that nine 30-something players are still around and that
36-year-old 2006 World Cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro is
starring in the center of defense.
Facing Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia, Italy is the
favorite to win its group, and would then likely face Denmark,
Japan or Cameroon for a place in the last eight. With this
aging team, however, anything after that would be a bonus for
Lippi, who is handing over the reins to former Fiorentina
coach Cesare Prandelli after the tournament.
France coach Raymond Domenech is on the way out too, and
will be replaced by former Bordeaux coach after the World Cup
is over. Many of his critics say that`s already too late.
But France, like Italy, has a comparatively easy path to
the last 16 with games against Uruguay, Mexico and host South
Africa. And despite the poor form of a talented but dispirited
side, three victories will make Domenech look good.
A newspaper poll showed half of the French don`t think
the team can advance beyond the quarterfinals, while former
France great Marcel Desailly said he believed the team would
go out in the group stage.
Spain`s Vicente Del Bosque know that his side is among
the leading favorites, especially with most of the Euro 2008
winning team he inherited from Luis Argones still around.
Quiet and happy to stay out of the spotlight, Del Bosque
won domestic and European titles with Real Madrid and many
neutral football fans in the world would applaud him for a
World Cup triumph.
His biggest headache is the fitness of several key
players coming into the competition, with Fernando Torres,
Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta all missing games for their
Germany and the Netherlands are other major contenders.
Joachim Loew has loaded his German squad with six strikers to
compensate for a weaker-than-usual midfield, while Dutch coach
Bert van Marwijk knows his team`s chances also rely heavily on
a star studded-attack with Robin van Persie hoping to thrive
on the talent of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.
There`s no guarantee, however, that one of the
traditional favorites will go home with the trophy.
Bob Bradley has made steady improvements to the United
States side after a dismal performance under Bruce Arena four
years ago and a victory over England at Rustenburg on day two
could kickstart a powerful run through the tournament.
Sven-Goran Eriksson had plenty of success at club level
before leading England to the quarterfinals of two World Cups
and a European Championship. Now the Swede has to bring
stability to a talented Ivory Coast side and a quarterfinal
appearance by the Ivorians, host South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria
or Algeria will be a major boost for African football.
Otto Rehhagel is out to try and emulate a famous Euro
2004 triumph with Greece while the goal for Ottmar Hitzfeld,
who won European titles with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern
Munich, is to spur Switzerland to make a World Cup mark long
after its last quarterfinal finish in 1954.