From dour Dunga to the downright eccentric Diego Maradona, the leading coaches at the World Cup are plotting different ways to win the title.
One of the game's all time greats as a player, Maradona has stunned the soccer world by ignoring hugely experienced defenders Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso, who showed their top form by helping Inter Milan win the Champions League.
Maradona has been unable to get the best out of stars such as Lionel Messi and the soccer jury is out as to whether such a great player will ever make it as a coach.
While the rejection of these top players seems crazy, no will be complaining in Brazil if Dunga wins the title he won as a player 16 years ago. And Maradona will achieve even greater plaudits in Argentina if he justifies his selections by capturing a third for his country.
"We will do whatever is needed to reach our goal," Dunga said during his team's World Cup preparations. "We are confident that everything has been very well planned.
"It's always the same thing before every World Cup. Everybody wants to talk about those players who are not on the team. For some reason they are always better than those who are on the team. People will always complain. But I'm going to summon those I think will help Brazil the most, regardless of their names."
The Italian, who has had major club successes with AC Milan and Real Madrid, knows he has the nucleus of a team to get very close to winning the title. But he doesn't have a safe and reliable goalkeeper and can't find the right partner for Wayne Rooney in attack.
What he does have, however, is a technique to get these millionaire stars to do what he wants, to behave smartly and respectfully even at their team hotel where cell phones and flip-flops are banned in public and the players dine together as a team. The disciplinarian has also ordered his England players to leave their wives and girlfriends — and millionaire lifestyles — behind.
"Capello instills fear, like a severe dad," England striker Wayne Rooney said of the England head coach. "He has explained to us how to do everything. He has made us more of a squad. He has worked above all on the tactics, now we can change them every match."
Lippi was persuaded to return to the role after a disastrous spell by Roberto Donadoni, and it's no surprise that nine 30-something players are still around and that 36-year-old 2006 World Cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro is starring in the center of defense.
Facing Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia, Italy is the favorite to win its group, and would then likely face Denmark, Japan or Cameroon for a place in the last eight. With this aging team, however, anything after that would be a bonus for Lippi, who is handing over the reins to former Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli after the tournament.
French coach Raymond Domenech is on the way out too, and will be replaced by former Bordeaux coach after the World Cup is over. Many of his critics say that's already too late.
But France, like Italy, has a comparatively easy path to the last 16 with games against Uruguay, Mexico and host South Africa. And despite the poor form of a talented but dispirited side, three victories will make Domenech look good.
A newspaper poll showed half of the French don't think the team can advance beyond the quarterfinals, while former France great Marcel Desailly said he believed the team would go out in the group stage.
Spain's Vicente Del Bosque know that his side is among the leading favorites, especially with most of the Euro 2008 winning team he inherited from Luis Argones still around.
Quiet and happy to stay out of the spotlight, Del Bosque won domestic and European titles with Real Madrid and many neutral soccer fans in the world would applaud him for a World Cup triumph.
Germany and the Netherlands are other major contenders. Joachim Loew has loaded his German squad with six strikers to compensate for a weaker-than-usual midfield, while Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk knows his team's chances also rely heavily on a star studded-attack with Robin van Persie hoping to thrive on the talent of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.
There's no guarantee, however, that one of the traditional favorites will go home with the trophy.
Bob Bradley has made steady improvements to the United States side after a dismal performance under Bruce Arena four years ago and a victory over England at Rustenburg on day two could kickstart a powerful run through the tournament.
Sven-Goran Eriksson had plenty of success at club level before leading England to the quarterfinals of two World Cups and a European Championship. Now the Swede has to bring stability to a talented Ivory Coast side and a quarterfinal appearance by the Ivorians, host South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria or Algeria will be a major boost for African soccer.
Otto Rehhagel is out to try and emulate a famous Euro 2004 triumph with Greece while the goal for Ottmar Hitzfeld, who won European titles with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, is to spur Switzerland to make a World Cup mark long after its last quarterfinal finish in 1954.
Source: AP News