Mad, bad and just plain dangerous: Coaches to watch at the World Cup | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 09.06.2010
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Mad, bad and just plain dangerous: Coaches to watch at the World Cup

Most of the time, fans watching this summer's World Cup will have their eyes fixed on the action on the pitch, but it may be in their interest to direct a glance to the sidelines now and again for some extra drama.

Argentina soccer coach Diego Maradona

Maradona has learned not all sweating happens on the pitch

The World Cup doesn't only pit some of soccer's greatest players against each other on the grass but also brings some of the game's greatest coaching minds into competition. It also puts some of football's greatest characters and legends in the spotlight once again.

Coaches' styles and temperaments vary just as much their charges, and thus the possibility for excitement, controversy and moments of madness is just as high in the dug-out as in the penalty area. Taking in a cross section of different approaches, character and the potential for headlines, Deutsche Welle presents four coaches to watch this summer.

The living legend

Few will argue against Diego Maradona being one of the best players ever to grace the game. Some even say his genius surpassed that of Pele. But that could be called into question at the moment. Pele at least had the sense to stay away from the reins of his beloved national team, while an increasingly erratic Maradona now leads Argentina to South Africa. Perhaps Perhaps Argentina's fate this summer will show who the real genius is.

Argentina's coach Diego Maradona

Maradona the coach brings passion, experience - and no small amount of madness - to Argentina

Maradona's brief career as Argentina coach bears all the hallmarks of his distinguished - and not so distinguished - playing career. While Pele plays it safe with media work in his twilight years, El Pibe risks everything by attempting to capture the game's greatest prize as both player and coach of the Albiceleste.

Lifting the trophy as captain in Mexico in 1986 was undoubtedly the highpoint of Maradona's career, capping a tournament in which he almost single-handedly dragged Argentina to the top of the world. If his almost supernatural playing gift can be adapted to his coaching role, Maradona's legend will complete, and few could question his position as a soccer god.

However, the chaos which dogged the latter half of his playing days - on and off the pitch - has an equal chance of raising its ugly head and determining how we remember Diego Armando Maradona.

The tracksuit-wearing version of the legend has proved inconsistent, impulsive and indecisive as a coach, almost ruling Argentina out of the World Cup before the finals even began with his cack-handed qualifying campaign - one in which he called up more than a hundred players in two years.

His personal demons are also a worry: foul-mouthed media outbursts, hit-and-run attacks on journalists and bloody battles with aggressive canines have made as many headlines as his work with the team. Fears are high that El Diego may blow his top in South Africa. Or he could achieve a new level of genius - all of which makes Maradona compulsive viewing.

The disciplinarian

Normally just qualifying for a tournament is enough to get England fans whipped up into a state of optimistic fervor, such is their belief in their continually under-performing team. But one look at coach Fabio Capello's CV and one might have to concede that they might just have a point this year.

The Italian is a close as you can get to a winning machine. Capello has won league titles in Italy with AC Milan, Juventus and Roma and the Spanish title with Real Madrid plus the Champions League with Milan. But it's not so much how many titles he has won as it is the way he does it which makes him so respected by his fellow coaches and so feted by England fans.

England soccer team manager Fabio Capello

Capello has shaken up the England system with his disciplined approach and pragmatism

With a coaching style described by some as dictatorial, Capello has managed to turn a team of blinged-up serial mega-chokers into a disciplined and focused unit in which every player understands exactly what is required of him - and when. England rampaged through their qualifying campaign without distractions, anchored to the task at hand by Capello's discipline and pragmatism. No mean feat, considering these same players failed to even make it to Euro 2008.

Capello carries himself in the way that he expects his players to behave so there won't be any touchline tantrums or throwing of water bottles. What can be expected is a master class of tactical nous and the possibility of the great man adding a rather weighty gong to his already bulging collection.

The mystic

Raymond Domenech doesn't trust Scorpios. Or Leos. But at least if you are born under the star sign of the lion, you at least have a chance of making the French team. You just won't have the full confidence of the coach. If you're a Scorpio – you can start planning your summer holidays because you won't be turning out for France at the World Cup.

France soccer coach Raymond Domenech

Stars in his eyes: Amateur astrologist Domenech has been a paradoxical character for France

The France coach is infamous for putting his trust in the stars – rather than his stars, the ones on the pitch. A combative former defender, Domenech has since reinvented himself as a cod philosopher and amateur astrologist, making him a paradox in the eyes of the French public. He started out as France coach with a reputation as a great communicator but has since alienated many fans and players through his growing penchant for not making a lot of sense on or off the field.

Just like that other great French thinker – Eric Cantona – Domenech can be relied upon to turn press conferences into unhinged lectures in existentialism. It also appears to be a talent he applies behind closed doors in team talks - members of his supremely talented squad have at times expressed bafflement over his game-plans in recent years.

Having taken France to the final of the 2006 World Cup, Domenech earned himself a lot of credit. But he used up much of it when he failed to get them past the quarter-finals at Euro 2008, and blew the rest by deciding to use his post-match press conference after the side's exit to propose to his long-term girlfriend on national television.

Things have only marginally improved since. Les Bleus did scrape through to South Africa, but only courtesy of Thierry Henry's handball against Ireland. Despite not winning a trophy with the former World and European champions, Domenech is his country's longest serving national coach. This tournament is his swansong, however, so expect a few more musings on life, love, the stars and…perhaps a bit of football too, before he bids adieu.

The dark horse

Looking at Germany coach Joachim Loew, it's hard to imagine him losing his cool. He's usually a glossy-haired study in Boss tailored calmness, talking evenly – even a little boringly – about discipline, tactics and motivation in his meticulously measured tone, spoken in that odd, somewhat glottal accent of his. He wanders sagely around a practice pitch, formulating plans and considering every possibility; a Zen master in Adidas training gear.

German national soccer team coach Joachim Loew

The calm before the storm: Jogi Loew can be reflective and measured but also a man possessed

Get Jogi to the stadium and put a frustrating German performance in front of him and he's soon off wrestling with other coaches and match officials, kicking bottles over and smoking furiously in director's boxes after being sent to the stands. Bursting out of his shirt like a slightly less ripped Incredible Hulk, Loew becomes possessed with passion, mutating from the perfect gentleman to the raging lunatic in the time it takes Mario Gomez to miss two sitters.

It's not only the game that gets his goat. Loew won't stand for insubordination. Woe betide the man who questions The Coach or steps out of line in regard to the team. Ask Kevin Kuranyi…or Torsten Frings. If you can find them. They won't be in South Africa this summer after crossing Der Nationaltrainer.

Loew's mood changes quickly, but what many are beginning to wonder is whether his tactics can do the same. He did coach a no-frills Germany side to the final of Euro 2008, but it remains to be seen if Loew's 2010 team can prove he's got that special touch when it comes to negotiating awkward World Cup moments.

Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann

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