Asian And African Sides Are Opposites In Terms Of Head Coach Experience

When Iran needed a new head coach ahead of the World Cup, they turned to experience. Carlos Queiroz is only three games into his current spell at Iran, but he already knows his players well from coaching them for almost 100 games in his previous spell, including at the 2014 and 2018 World Cup tournaments.

Queiroz, who has managed seven national teams across four continents has spent more time in the international dugout than any other manager at the 2022 World Cup. This will be his fourth World Cup, as he also managed Portugal in 2010.

In the opposition technical area for Iran’s opener at the 2018 World Cup was Frenchman Hervé Renard. He was in charge of Morocco at the time. Now he’s coaching Saudi Arabia, his fifth national team. Renard, best known for his African Cup of Nations successes with Zambia and Côte d’Ivoire, helped Saudi Arabia qualify comfortably for the World Cup, topping a group featuring Australia and Japan.

The coaches of Asia’s three other teams at the World Cup also have plenty of experience. South Korea head coach Paulo Bento managed his home country Portugal in 2014, and Australia’s Graham Arnold has led the Socceroos for more than 50 games over three separate occasions as well as serving as Australia’s assistant coach at the 2010 World Cup.

Japan’s Hajime Moriyasu and Qatar’s head coach Félix Sánchez have also coached their teams for more than 50 games each as well as coaching their youth sides before getting the top job. Sánchez has worked through the age groups from under-19 level, and as a result has coached Qatar’s top players such as Akram Afif and Almoez Ali for almost a decade now.

The head coaches of Asia’s World Cup participants have an average of more than 100 games of international experience. Africa’s head coaches have far less experience, with one exception: Senegal’s Aliou Cissé.

Cissé has managed Senegal since 2015, taking them to the 2018 World Cup and winning the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. He is one of the most seasoned head coaches at the World Cup, but the coaches of Africa’s four other participants have far less experience.

For the first time ever, every African team at the World Cup will be led by a local coach.

But this trend is a very recent one, with Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana and Cameroon all changing their head coach in 2022.

In three of those four cases, the current head coach was promoted from either the assistant’s job or from one of the youth teams. Morocco’s Walid Regragui is the exception, moving from local side Wydad AC in August to replace Vahid Halilhodžić.

If ever a coach had cause to feel hard done by, it would be Halilhodžić, who has qualified for the World Cup with Côte d’Ivoire, Algeria and Japan before repeating the feat with Morocco, but on three of those occasions, he was replaced ahead of the tournament. On the one occasion he did get to manage at the World Cup he reached the Round of 16 with Algeria in 2014.

After getting the Morocco job, Regragui quickly reinstated key player Hakim Ziyech, who had been dropped by Halilhodžić, but has only coached the side for two friendly games in September ahead of this international break.

The other three head coaches were appointed just before the high-pressure World Cup playoff matches.

Ghana’s Otto Addo replaced Serbian Milovan Rajevac, who himself had only been in the job just over four months. Addo was born in Germany but of a Ghanaian background, and upon qualifying for the World Cup, he quickly looked for players in Europe who were eligible for Ghana such as Athletic Bilbao’s Iñaki Williams and Brighton and Hove Albion’s Tariq Lamptey.

Rigobert Song and his Cameroon side qualified for the World Cup in dramatic fashion, scoring in the very last minute of extra time to beat Algeria. Like Addo, Song has added to his team with the likes of the French-born Georges-Kévin Nkoudou, Enzo Ebosse and Bryan Mbeumo.

Tunisia head coach Jalel Kadri replaced a local coach, Mondher Kebaier. Kadri has lost just one of his eight games in charge, and that loss was against World Cup favorites Brazil.

The African nations at the World Cup will be hoping that their new coaches’ knowledge of their local players makes up for the lack of experience.

France head coach Didier Deschamps, the longest-serving coach at this World Cup, had already coached the world champions for around 50 matches head of the 2018 World Cup. The head coach of finalists Croatia, Zlatko Dalić, on the other hand, was appointed just one match before the World Cup play-offs, similar to Rigobert Song, Otto Addo and Jalel Kadri.

They’ll be hoping to match Croatia’s success and show that homegrown coaches can bring Africa success on the biggest stage.