How much can a coach influence a World Cup team? During my career as a footballer, I had four coaches who were a major influence in my life. My favourite coaches at the club level were Barry Hughes (Harleem), Ger Blok (RKC) and Arrigo Sacchi (AC Milan).
At the national team level, I was fortunate enough to be coached by the legendary Rinus Micheals with whom we won the European Cup in 1988. He used to say that it was an art to compose a starting team, finding balance between creative players and the ones with destructive powers.
A national team coach doesn't remain with players all year round. So he must give them a serene structure to work in, unify the team, and say what he wants from each player.
If we look at this World Cup, we can see that the coaches who have been able to do that have so far been successful. Diego Maradona took the brunt of much criticism in qualifications, but has inspired his talented Argentine players with his charisma.
Coach Van Marwijk has unified the Dutch team. Bielsa of Chile, Tabarez of Uruguay and Aguirre of Mexico took over losing teams and turned them into winners, by having a clear game plan and avoiding team clans or divisions.
Dunga has fashioned the Brazilian team into his own image. On the other hand, Domenech of France has clearly failed.
The African countries of Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa also gambled by hiring coaches at the last minute, hoping to accomplish miracles, but failed.
At the end of the day, as good as a coach might be, it is ultimately up to the best players to show they brought their best stuff to this World Cup.
Chivach Sports/Hawkeye Communications