The coaches of the World Cup are more invested in the outcome of the match than almost anyone else on the planet. Players return to their league club between national-team matches—coaches don’t. They simply grit their teeth and bear the weight that comes with carrying an entire country’s sporting expectations on their shoulders.
“Your biggest question before you take the job is not, do you put them 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1,” Slaven Bilic, the former coach of the Croatian national soccer team, said, referencing different soccer formations. “The biggest question is, can you cope with the pressure?”
One of the great World Cup coaches of all time was César Luis Menotti, the manager of the 1978 Argentina championship team. El Flaco, or “the thin one,” as he was known, had a long flop of side-parted dark hair and thick sideburns, and he routinely used nicotine to help him cope with the pressure—he was rarely seen without a cigarette. It seemed to work, too. He may be the only person that Diego Maradona has ever referred to as God, other than Diego Maradona himself. Menotti’s reputation in later years became so great that he developed a group of followers known as Menottistas. And as with nearly all of the great coaches, his strategy possessed a blend of philosophy and artistry. He once said, with a lively spirit of abstraction, “A team above all is an idea.” Read More