No World Cup Titles For Teams With Foreign Head Coaches, But They’ve Won Everything Else

After the Qatar 2022 World Cup, many national teams and head coaches are considering their next steps. England boss Gareth Southgate has said he will take some time to decide on his future, and Brazil and Belgium are among the teams looking for a new head coach.

There’s much debate over whether Brazil, England or other countries should hire a foreign head coach. Brazil have been rumored to be interested in Carlo Ancelotti as a potential replacement for Tite, while on the other side of the coin, South Korea’s soccer association was forced to issue a statement to dismiss rumors that it would only consider a “patriotic” local head coach.

Whenever there is a debate on the nationality of a national team head coach, one statistic always seems to pop up: no side has ever won the World Cup with a foreign head coach.

But this argument has several flaws.

First, only eight countries have ever won the World Cup, and many tournaments happened before choosing a foreign head coach was even a consideration for most countries.

Second, the countries that have won the World Cup have generally been the ones with the strongest leagues and players, and countries that produce the best players most likely also produce the best head coaches.

And third, there are more international competitions than the World Cup.

When looking at the continental-level international competitions like Copa America or the Africa Cup of Nations in recent years, in the cases where an underdog has won the tournament, it has generally had a foreign coach.

Canada (2000 Gold Cup)

The CONCACAF Gold Cup has been dominated by the USA and Mexico who between them have won every Gold Cup since 1991, apart from one. Mexico had an Argentinean head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino for its 2019 win, while Jurgen Klinsmann from Germany was head coach for USA’s win in 2013.

The one time that neither the USA nor Mexico won, underdogs Canada lifted the trophy, with a German, Holger Osieck, as head coach. Canada scraped through the group stage on a coin toss after drawing with Costa Rica and invitees South Korea. Osieck’s team then beat Mexico with a golden goal in the quarter finals, before winning the final 2-0 against South American invitees Colombia.

Greece (Euro 2004)

In a group containing Spain, Russia and hosts Portugal, everybody had written Greece off. Perhaps they should have noticed that Greece’s head coach was Otto Rehhagel, who a few years earlier had won the Bundesliga with newly-promoted Kaiserslautern. Greece shocked Portugal 2-1 in the opening match and beat the hosts again in the final, this time 1-0.

Zambia (2012 Africa Cup of Nations)

World Cup watchers might know Herve Renard for his lucky white shirt, similarities to Game of Thrones hunk Jaime Lannister, or his half time speech for Saudi Arabia during their recent win over Argentina. But fans of African soccer will know him as the head coach who led Zambia to a surprise AFCON win in 2012. Zambia beat Cote d’Ivoire on penalties in the final, but Cote d’Ivoire become African champions themselves just three years later at AFCON 2015, with none other than Herve Renard as head coach for his second AFCON title.

Chile (2015 Copa America)

Chile drew 0-0 with Argentina in the 2015 Copa America then won the penalty shootout to win the trophy on home soil. Their head coach at the time was Argentinean Jorge Sampaoli, now in charge of Sevilla. One year later, Argentina-born Spaniard Juan Antonio Pizzi repeated the trick, beating his country of birth on penalties after another 0-0 draw to give Chile back-to-back titles.

Qatar (2019 Asian Cup)

Celtic’s Australian manager Ange Postecoglou is the only head coach this millennium to win the Asian Cup with his home country. Japan have won the tournament three times since 2000 with foreign head coaches, and Iraq have won it once.

Qatar might not have impressed at the 2022 World Cup, but they showed they deserved a place in the tournament back in 2018, winning the Asian Cup in style under Felix Sanchez. Qatar beat the United Arab Emirates 4-0 in the semi-finals and Japan 3-1 in the final, as well as winning against Saudi Arabia and South Korea earlier in the tournament.

These continental championships show that the “no foreign head coach has won the World Cup” statistic doesn’t have much weight to it. The UEFA European Championships might not be the World Cup, but England fans won’t be complaining if a foreign coach leads the Three Lions to victory at Euro 2024 in Germany.

There are other, more valid arguments for choosing a local coach over a foreign coach.

The lack of coaching time given to national team coaches could mean any technical inferiority a local coach might have could be overcome by speaking the same language and the motivational power of national pride. A domestic head coach can act as an inspiration for other local coaches, and in the long term, countries will want to improve their soccer level so that they are producing high-quality head coaches rather than hiring foreign coaches as a shortcut to success.

Some people even view having a foreign coach as “cheating” and think FIFA should enforce similar rules as they do for players regarding the nationality of national team head coaches.

All of these arguments are worth considering, but foreign coaches shouldn’t be dismissed solely on the argument that no country has won the World Cup with a foreign coach as they’ve won every other major trophy out there.