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If you want to coach your country—pray

Published 8 years ago
By Forbes Africa

How many of the 32 coaches that will going to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in June will still have a job after the tournament remains to be seen. If past experience is anything to go by, at least half may be out of a job.

Some will be sacked; others will leave. The end of a big tournament is often the right time to take on a fresh challenge.

The World Cup is often a catalyst for change because it is the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next.

Most football associations around the world do their planning in four-year blocks, starting after one World Cup and leading up to the next. So, it is only natural that there will be some change after this year’s event in Brazil.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – SEPTEMBER 10: Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque looks on during the Spain v Chile international friendly at Stade de Geneve on September 10, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)

Being a coach, especially an international one, is a stressful job. Coaches are always under pressure to get results, it does not matter which team you are in charge of, from Spain to Djibouti, fans and media expect success—the measure of that success is the only thing that changes.

Even Vicente del Bosque, the current coach of Spain feels the pressure. He won the World Cup with his country in 2010 and followed that up by claiming the 2012 European Championships as well, arguably the two most difficult international competitions to win.

Defeats for Spain have been rare, but when they do come, such as in the final of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup against Brazil, or even the 1-0 loss to South Africa in a friendly in November, the questions that are asked of him, his players and his preparation are intense.

Del Bosque has built a level of expectation around the side and in so doing increased the pressure on himself. A single defeat is met with a lot of soul-searching. Goodness knows what would happen if they lost back-to-back matches, something that Spain has not experienced since 2006.

A lot of this pressure is also created by the media. It makes for great headlines and plenty of discussion online, but the truth of the matter is Del Bosque knows his job is under no real threat.

He has been tasked with taking Spain to the World Cup in Brazil and that is where the real pressure will kick in for him. What counts in his favor is that he knows he has the players to succeed.

Other coaches have different kinds of pressure, where the expectation for success is there but the playing personnel cannot back it up.

Coaches know better than anyone else the true quality of their players and just how much they can conceivably get out of them. They may get a bit of luck now and again to help them along the way, but for the most part they have to work within the constraints of their squad.

Being a national coach is vastly different to leading a side at club level.

With a club you work with the players six or seven days a week, you can work on their weaknesses and help them develop their strengths. You can sit through endless video sessions with them and analyze to a fine detail to try and get things right.

That is simply not the case at a national team level. You only have the players for a few days before a match. In that time your job is to decide which combinations will work best and try and get the side as organized as possible.

You can run some drills, you can provide some analysis of the opposition and sit through a few team meetings but that is about as far as it goes. Then, maybe, you see the players again two months later.

Leading up to a World Cup is different, where players are available for camps some three weeks before the start of the tournament. That is a slightly better scenario, but still nowhere near enough time to get your message across to your team like the coach of a club can.

That is why plenty of excellent club coaches have not been able to translate their success to the international stage. They are two very different roles. It is also why many coaches say the international game is not for them. They miss the daily interaction that club coaching brings.

Coaching at a national team level involves scouting for players, sitting through hours and hours of football on a weekend and knowing hundreds of players inside out.

There is a skill in knowing what you are looking for and picking players who complement one another. And, of course, you have to deal with the advice you receive from colleagues, agents and the media.

To be successful, coaches have to rise above that and need to have a clear picture of how they want their team to play and which players will best achieve that.

There is something to be said for carrying the hopes of a nation on your shoulders. Millions of people are expecting coaches to raise their spirits. That is real pressure, knowing that young and old are relying on you to provide the victories that will either leave the nation in a state of euphoria or despair.

Players often carry the blame in the media, but at the end of the day the buck stops with the coach and it is he who could lose his job. Players will keep on playing, maybe not for the national team but certainly their clubs, and their income is secured.

Coaches have to rely on their players to keep them employed. If you see a coach praying on the sidelines, it is often because they feel helpless.

As a coach you can pick the best players and devise the perfect plan but it only takes one small error from a defender, a slip by a goalkeeper or a penalty miss from a striker to lose a match. That is the thin margin between success and failure for many coaches.

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Related Topics: #April 2014, #Brazil, #Coach, #European Championships, #FIFA World Cup, #Vicente del Bosque.