Thursday, 3 June 2010

Meet the Coaches

Time to meet the coaches. Let's start with Gerardo Martino, Commander-in-Chief of Paraguay. 47, he became Head Honcho of Los Guaranies in 2007 and few could argue with his qualifying record. There's been much written about Lucas Barrios, him of the Argentinian passport. But he's not the only one in the squad...his manager hails from Roasrio.

An attacking midfielder in his playing days, primarily for Newell's Old Boys, he managed a solitary appearance for the national team. Argentina that is not Paraguay.

But he got the gig with Paraguay after many successful years of management in the Paraguayan top flight. He led both Libertad and Cerro Porteno to the Primera Division title.

He says: 'We will be trying to do our best to prepare for our game against Italy, which should be tough. We are aware that this is going to be a difficult tournament for everyone, but we need to work harder and make sure we qualify for the next round.'

63 year old Oscar Tabarez is Uruguay's Mr Big. He managed La Celeste in 1990 when it stumbled through the group stage and lost to Italy in the Round of 16. He's been in charge this time around since 2006.

He's a well travelled coach, managing clubs in Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Spain and Italy. He enjoyed a brief tenure as AC Milan coach in 1996.

He says: 'I believe that we can cause a surprise as not much is expected of us. The biggest surprise even for us would be to reach the last four, which some people always expect because of our history.' (yeah was kinda a long time ago now though Oscar)

Marcelo Bielsa is leading the Chilean charge in South Africa. The obsessive coach known as El Loco is 54 and another with Argentinian connections. Like Martino, he was born in Rosario and managed the Argentinian national team from 1998- 2004, which included the ill-fated 2002 campaign. He bounced back from this disappointment to lead the team to Olympic glory in 2002.

But his background hasn't stopped him being embraced by the Chile faithful. Leading the nation to its first World Cup since France 1998 means that he should have the job for as long as he wants it. There have been some notable firsts during his reign, none more so than Chile's first ever win against Argentina in a competitive match.

He has much in common with Gerardo Martino - not only born in Rosario, they both played for the local team, Newell's Old Boys. Martino has more appearances than anyone for Newell's. Biesla went a step further and managed the team between 1990 and 1992, and his squad included ....that's right Old Boys' stalwart Martino.

She says: (Michelle Bachelet ex-President of Chile) 'He's got the combination of being both good-looking and mysterious, which women find fatal.'

Dunga needs little introduction as boss of Brazil. He's already captained La Verdeamarelha to victoy in 1994 and now, like Maradona, he's going for the captain/ manager double.

Brazil were impressive in qualification, topping the group and scoring more goals than anyone. Yet still the criticism persists of his selections and tactics, much to Dunga's obvious annoyance. With close to 200 million people to appease it's not surprising that he's feeling the pressure.

He has no previous managerial experience and has been in the hot-seat since 2006.

He says: 'Here we will have 300 journalists from Brazil who are hoping we don't win the next event so they can say they were right all along - that he (the coach) got lucky in the Copa America and the Confederations Cup

And to Argentina. Some chap called Diego Maradona. Quiet, unassuming fella. The third of our quintet to play for Newell's Old Boys.

What else? In many eyes the best player of all time. Led Argentina single-handedly to the 1986 World Cup. Genuis. Drugs. Handballs. Needs to wash his mouth out with soapy water. But we know all this. Can he manage as well as captain La Albiceleste to glory? We'll soon find out whether there is method in his madness.

He's been in the role since 2008. It all started off so well with 3 consecutive wins but trouble was ahead, including a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Bolivia. Qualification was in serious doubt but two wins in their last two games saw them through to South Africa. Now the fun begins.

He says (quite a lot actually): 'suck it and keep on sucking it.' (to the media after qualification)

'Even if there was a hand, it was the hand of God.'

'I did it with the hand of reason.' (after smashing a photograhper's car)

'I worked all my life for this. Those who say I dont deserve anything, that it all came easy, can kiss my arse.'

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