National team managers, eh, they have it tough don’t they? Who’d want to be one, huh? (Actually, no they don’t have it that tough really, in fact they have it pretty darn nice, and I’m sure most people would be quite happy to quit that horrible, miserable call centre job and give it a go, just for a laugh if nothing else).
But, anyway, if they succeed they’re the cream of the crop, the nations sweetheart, etched into the chronicles of glorious history, if they fail they’re vilified, belittled and cast aside amongst the dying embers of a nations dreams; the dreams they dashed, the dreams they solely shattered, the poor little children’s dreams, hearts and hopes they callously ripped apart, flung to the floor and shat on.
Anyhow, let’s take a look at three of the better (the top) managers who will be leading their sides out to battle this World Cup. The three I’ve picked out and tipped are based upon their respective circumstance and specific success on the national scene; hence, despite bathing in a sea of silverware on a club level, the likes of Capello miss out.
So here are the three top managers to keep your beady eyes on, and out for, this World Cup:
1. Raddy Antic, Serbia:
Former Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona manager (quite a list), Antic took over the national side in 2008, only a matter of weeks before the World Cup qualifying campaign begun. He quickly made his mark, breathing fresh life into the side. Serbia looked a striking and imposing side throughout qualification, topping a group shared with France and Romania. Indeed, having possessed potential and an increasingly notable list of stars, Antic has distilled a greater team spirit and unity to Serbia. This was largely the problem last time around when the then Serbia-Montenegro somewhat disintegrated during Germany 2006; training ground bust-ups, unnecessarily tactical alterations under old coach Petkovic and unfortunate injuries. This togetherness under Antic has been carefully constructed, such as the farewell friendly fixture for former star Milosevic spawning a great big love-in. It seems to have paid dividends, as when the pressure was on to secure qualification in the penultimate group fixture, against Romania, they romped home with a 5-0 victory; condemning France to the play-offs. It will be interesting to see how far Antic can take his side this summer. He has firmly said that his ambitions are ‘much bigger than just qualification’ and they undoubtedly have a team capable of metamorphosing into the clichéd ‘dark horses’; a team boasting the likes of Vidic, Stankovic and Zigic.
Antic has created a balanced and adaptable side, utilizing the imposing force of forward Zigic ahead of a skilful and talented midfield, including width provided by Jovanovic and Krasic.
2. Vladimir Weiss, Slovakia:
At 45-years-old Weiss is the youngest manager going into the World Cup this summer. The former Artmedia Bratislava coach – leading them to their first Slovakian League title and infamously thumping Gordon Strachan’s Celtic 5-0 in the Champions League second qualifying round in 2005 – is worth a spot on this list for guiding Slovakia to their first World Cup since becoming an independent nation in 1993. A relatively young country, following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia has the chance to make its own history. Weiss has blended a proficient mix of experience and youth; including the likes of Robert Vittek, Martin Skrtel and Marek Hamsik. Indeed, Napoli midfielder Hamsik is clearly the starlet of the side. He is a player of true class and influence, thus Weiss has successfully moulded him as the hub of the side. They qualified at the expense of neighbours Czech Republic and now a fairly fortunate draw (Italy, Paraguay and New Zealand) could see them progress in second spot. Weiss will be sticking to his usual blend of old and young, whilst perpetuating the successful notion of the ‘under-dogs’ as a motivational tool.
3. Marcello Lippi, Italy:
Felt I should probably choose one manager from the ‘bigger boys’ and so who better than Don Lippi. Having guided Italy to World Cup triumph in 2006, he rekindled the love-affair following Roberto Donadoni’s perceived failures during Euro 2008; thus making him the first coach to return to the Azzurri hot seat since Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930’s. He now looks to defy the critics again and secure his second and Italy’s fifth World Cup winner’s medal. It will certainly be a tough act – Italy are a notoriously ageing side and have looked a little lethargic and pedestrian in recent years – but you still wouldn’t be surprised to see the reigning champions conquer yet again. Indeed, Lippi looks set to keep faith with the old guard, much of which were part of the 2006 side, and construct a compact and experienced squad. He is likely to favour a 4,3,1,2 formation with a strong, combative midfield (though perhaps lacking enough attacking ingenuity) with Pirlo in a more advanced role. As a previous winner and an infinitely successful manager – seemingly set to step down after the tournament – Lippi deserves a place on the list.
So, there we have it, who are you tips for managerial magnum opus?
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