Firing Squad: The Most Under-Pressure International Managers
This is an all-international installment of the Firing Squad.
With World Cup qualifying coming to a head, more than a few managers are feeling the heat, and no doubt a handful of them will be out of work a week from now.
Following are five managers from four continents who are going into the international dates under considerable pressure.
Paulo Bento, Portugal
Overall, Paulo Bento’s record as Portugal manager is a good one.
He’ll take charge of his 35th match with the national side when they host Israel in Lisbon on Friday. Although only six of his previous outings have been losses, a seventh defeat would put Portugal in an awkward situation as they look to secure qualification to the 2014 World Cup.
At present Portugal are second in Group F—five points clear of second-place Israel. But Bento has his eye on automatic qualification and three points from each of Israel and Luxembourg. His side are nipping at Russia’s heels and could conceivably displace them atop the table by next Tuesday.
Winning the group would allow Portugal to avoid a potentially tricky play-off—a defeat in which would almost certainly cost Bento his job.
Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay
Uruguay's World Cup qualifying campaign began well enough with wins over Bolivia and Chile and a draw away to Paraguay in their first three matches.
But a streak that saw them win just one of their next eight matches (a run that included a 4-0 loss to Colombia and 4-1 defeat to Bolivia) put their chances of punching their ticket to Brazil in serious jeopardy until victories over Venezuela, Peru and Colombia got them back on track.
Overseeing all the ups and downs has been Oscar Tabarez.
While the 66-year-old guided La Celeste to the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup and victory in the Copa America a year later, further trip-ups against Ecuador and Argentina could see Uruguay miss out on the 2014 tournament—or at least face the prospect of a two-legged playoff against Jordan.
Tabarez has given himself a lot to live up to, and we’ll find out in the next few days how he handles the pressure.
Victor Manuel Vucetich, Mexico
It would hardly be an exaggeration to suggest Victor Manuel Vucetich is the most under-pressure person in football at the moment.
The third manager to take control of Mexico since the beginning of last month, Vucetich has a single mandate over the next few days: beat Panama and Costa Rica and qualify for the World Cup.
Failure to progress to the 2014 finals would be unconscionable for Mexico—a side that, only a few years ago, was touted as a possible contender in Brazil.
It’s up to Vucetich to turn those dreams into reality.
Roy Hodgson, England
England may be first in Group H of European qualification, but after eight matches they are only a point above each of Ukraine, Montenegro and Poland—the latter two of which they’ll face in the next few days.
The advantage for the Three Lions is that their upcoming contests against Montenegro and Poland will be played at Wembley, and four points from the two of them should be enough to see them through to the play-offs at the very least.
But Hodgson would come in for considerable criticism if his side was compelled to play another pair of matches against a competitive side. Victory in the two legs would be anything but a certainty.
Hodgson has never faced a week like this, and if he still has his job at the end of it, he’ll have taken England out of the group.
Bob Bradley, Egypt
Bob Bradley faces a different sort of pressure.
Generally admired in Egypt for so completely immersing himself in the culture and lauded for his part in returning international football to Cairo for the first time in two years, few international managers are as popular as the 55-year-old.
But he still has to deliver results.
A successful group stage campaign took The Pharaohs into the playoff round of African qualifying as they’ll play the first leg of their series against Ghana on Tuesday.
A good result would serve to fire up the 30,000 supporters who will attend the return leg at the 30 June Stadium, and victory in the tie and a first World Cup appearance for Egypt since 1990 would see Bradley attain legendary status.
But however influential he has been in the tumultuous story of Egyptian football these last few years, failure to progress to Brazil would be a grave disappointment.
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