PARIS: They are the master tacticians capable of making or breaking fortunes of a team by an inspired substitution or a tactical blunder. Like generals in an army they fight the war from outside the battlefield, moving the pieces on a virtual chessboard. The players are the gladiators doing the actual battle but it is the managers or coaches that run the show.
As the top teams from Europe gather in France for the Continent’s biggest football tournament, spotlight will be on two managers – Germany’s Joachim Loew and France’s Didier Deschamps, as they chase glory.
Loew will look to add the European crown to Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph while Deschamps will be hoping to win the European Championship as a manager having done so as a player in 2000.
Loew will celebrate 10 years as Germany’s head coach after Euro 2016 having never played for his country at senior level.
Under his stewardship, Germany have cemented their reputation as a tournament team — capable of raising their performances for the big occasions.
He replaced Jurgen Klinsmann as head coach in 2006 as Germany went onto finish as runners-up at Euro 2008, then third at the 2010 World Cup.
They reached the last four of Euro 2012, beaten 2-1 by Italy in Warsaw, before qualifying unbeaten for the 2014 World Cup finals.
Loew’s crowning glory came in Brazil where they beat the hosts 7-1 in one of the most incredible World Cup games ever before lifting their fourth world title. His contract will take him through to the 2018 World Cup.
His record of 86 wins in 129 matches, with 22 draws and 21 defeats, gives him a win-ratio of 66 percent.
Ever the innovator, he added Munich-based yoga instructor Patrick Broome to his backroom staff for Brazil 2014, to encourage players to stretch and lessen the risk of injury.
If yoga kept Ryan Giggs playing past his 40th birthday, it can work for the Germans.
Deschamps was captain of the French team that won the World Cup at home in 1998 and also led Les Bleus to glory at Euro 2000, so he is best placed to handle the pressure and expectation that comes with being in charge of the Euro 2016 hosts.
When asked by sports daily L’Equipe if he felt France — also winners in 1984 — could lift the Henri Delaunay trophy for a third time in July, Deschamps said: “We will go into it with that objective. We can be humble and ambitious.”
The 47-year-old who hails from Bayonne, the capital of the French Basque Country and very much rugby territory, has been building towards the Euro climax.
Exiting the 2014 World Cup in Brazil at the quarterfinal stage was accepted, especially as some of the performances were encouraging and there was none of the off-field problems that marred previous major tournaments for the French.
But an exciting young team is now expected to deliver at Euro 2016.