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...and the men behind it

Bert van Marwijk and Vicente del Bosque will continue the trend of the most successful manager at a World Cup being in his fifties, reports Dhiman Sarkar.

sports Updated: Jul 11, 2010 02:12 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

Bert van Marwijk and Vicente del Bosque will continue the trend of the most successful manager at a World Cup being in his fifties.

At 59, Del Bosque, the Spain coach, is a year older than Van Marwijk, who manages the Dutch. Marcello Lippi, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Aime Jacquet, coaches of the last three World Cups winners, Italy, Brazil and France, had all completed half-centuries before the crowning glory of their careers. Lippi was 58, Scolari 53 and Jacquet 56.

When Franz Beckenbauer coached Germany to the 1990 title, he was 45. Carlos Bilardo was two years older when he guided Argentina to their second World Cup title and Cesar Luis Menotti 39 when they got the first.

The 40s and 50s has been the most successful age-brackets for winning a World Cup, with seven coaches in each group. But these days it seems being older helps. Diego Maradona and Dunga, both in their 40s, went home after the quarter-finals.

What also unites Van Marwijk and his rival in the technical area on Sunday is that both built on the legacies of their predecessors. Van Marwijk didn't overhaul everything Marco van Basten did and persisted with the ageing Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Andre Ooijer, just as Del Bosque kept the faith in most of Luis Aragones' men who won the European championship in 2008.

Continuity has yielded huge dividends for both. One of those coaches who will leave South Africa with his reputation hugely enhanced, Van Marwijk has been given an extension till the Euro 2012. Under him, the Dutch have lost only once and he can better Rinus Michels and Ernst Happel, coaches in the failed campaigns of 1974 and 1978, if he pulls off one more win here. If Del Bosque does that, he too will take Spain to hitherto unconquered heights.

Even though their approach is different, Van Marwijk and Del Bosque seem to convey that while good attacks win matches, good defences win championships. If Holland's flair players are effective, it is because of the team's defensive structure. “I love attacking football, but I also love winning,” Van Marwijk said.

And for all their attacking prowess, it is Spain's ability to regain and retain possession that make them such an all-conquering team, one that ended the World Cup qualifiers with an all-win record.

Van Marwijk's firefighting skills came to the fore when Robin van Persie conveyed his displeasure at being substituted, saying Wesley Sneijder should have been taken out. He called a meeting and told the team who is boss.

Del Bosque hasn't had to do that, but for someone who was accused of not being capable of managing the galacticos' egos at Real Madrid, he did omit Fernando Torres from the semifinal starting lineup.

“They say I don't talk much,” Del Bosque said. “It's not about how much or how little you say, it's about saying the right amount.” With Spain he doesn't need to do more.

For a man who was always with Real Madrid, as player and coach, Del Bosque seems to be managing the clutch of Barcelona players, led by a skipper from Real Madrid, quite well.