20 Greatest World Cup Managers of All Time
There have so far been 19 FIFA World Cups, and 18 different men have lifted the trophy as manager.
That means one of them has won it twice, and no doubt he figures prominently in this list: the 20 best World Cup managers of all time.
It is a most exclusive list, which means there isn’t tremendous difference between the managers that have guided their teams to international glory.
But we have also included a pair that never won the World Cup, although both came close. And it’s with them that we begin.
20. Henri Michel
Henri Michel’s France had about as difficult a roadmap to the 1986 World Cup final as could be imagined. In the end, they came up short. Just.After coming through the group stage undefeated, Les Bleus knocked off Italy and Brazil before losing to West Germany in the semi-finals.
But Michel’s World Cup journey didn’t end there. In 1994 he was back at the tournament as manager of Cameroon, and in 2006 his Ivory Coast side acquitted itself nicely in the Group of Death—beating Serbia and Montenegro in Munich.
19. Rinus Michels
Like Michel, Rinus Michels never won the World Cup, but he came close in 1974 when his star-laden Netherlands side, including the likes of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Johnny Rep lost 2-1 to West Germany in the Munich final. Impressively, Michels had been able to transplant the Dutch model of total football from Ajax to the national side—a legacy that remains intact today.
18. Alberto Suppici
Not much is known about the first manager to win a World Cup. But Alberto Suppici, who had been an impressive left-half during his playing days, had a reputation as a disciplinarian—a coach who would drop a player for breaking curfew, for example. In 1930, Suppici’s Uruguay outfit hosted and then won the inaugural World Cup, defending its 1928 Olympic gold medal in the process.
17. Marcello Lippi
Marcello Lippi’s time in charge of Italy encompassed two extremes. In 2006 his Azzurri showed the ability to win beautifully (vs. Germany), controversially (vs. Australia) and everything in between. They also overcame the injury of Alessandro Nesta en route to the country’s fourth World Cup. Four years later, however, Italy’s campaign was a disaster as they failed to advance out of the group stage in South Africa.
16. Aime Jacquet
Aime Jacquet is one of those fortunate managers to have benefited from the presence of a true genius. In 1998, Zinedine Zidane was at the peak of his powers, and after conducting the orchestra in a semi-final win over Croatia, he applied the flourishes, himself, in the 3-0 final victory over Brazil.
Jacquet’s formations were a source of study that summer, and he also kept the faith in centre-forward Stephane Guivarc’h, who would only play a total of 14 times for Les Bleus.
15. Aymore Moreira
If Jacquet benefited from a genius, Aymore Moreira had something similar at his disposal—a player with the ability to win the World Cup all by himself, and who went on to do just that. With Pele injured, Brazil’s hero at the 1962 World Cup turned out to be Garrincha, who despite a withered leg, tormented opposition full-backs from his position on the right of the attack. Moreira’s squad also included one Mario Zagallo, who would eventually win the competition as a manager as well.
14. Cesar Luis Menotti
If Jacquet benefited from a genius and Moreira from a match-winner, Cesar Luis Menotti had the luxury of being backed up by something even more influential: the full force of the state.
Argentina’s 6-0 win over Brazil in 1978 is still viewed as highly controversial, but it was still Mario Kempes, and not one of the Netherlands’ superstars, who was the hero of the Buenos Aires final. Menotti also managed the Albicelestes in the 1982 World Cup, although his side went out after losses to Italy and Brazil in the second group stage.
13. Vicente Del Bosque
Vicente del Bosque’s tenure as a World Cup manager didn’t exactly get off to the best of starts. But after a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in Durban his Spain outfit proved unstoppable—winning their first World Cup after a physical, 1-0 victory over the Netherlands at Soccer City. All the while La Roja rarely conceded possession as the studious del Bosque mimicked the football being played at Barcelona with his national team.
12. Carlos Alberto Parreira
Carlos Allberto Parreira has had a love affair with the World Cup since 1994. That summer, his Brazil side won the country’s fourth title—driven on by the heroics of Romario. But in 2010 he ensured South Africa was competitive at its World Cup (something that wasn’t anything short of a miracle), where it finished ahead of France and only missed out on the round of 16 on goal difference. And now he’s back—an assistant to Luiz Felipe Scolari at the 2014 competition in his home country.
11. Luiz Felipe Scolari
At this point, Luiz Felipe Scolari is Brazil’s Teflon man. Nothing sticks to him. It’s easy to forget, however, that his first Brazil side struggled mightily just to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, although in South Korea and Japan the likes of Ronaldo and Rivaldo put together a memorable tournament that culminated in a fifth championship. Now Scolari is back—entrusted with nothing less than winning the World Cup on home soil.
10. Vicente Feola
Vicente Feola heeded advice from trainers, mystics and everything in between, but at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden he also had the pluck to throw a 17-year-old Pele into the fire. His faith was repaid in spades. After scoring against Wales in the quarter-finals, Pele delivered a hat-trick against France in the semi-finals and then bagged a brace against the host nation as Brazil won its first World Cup.
9. Juan Lopez Fontana
Juan Lopez Fontana’s legacy is nothing less than winning the World Cup for Uruguay in football-mad Brazil. The only World Cup to have not had a knockout round in its format, the tournament nevertheless came down to a showdown with the host nation, who had just trounced Sweden and Spain to the tune of 13-1. Uruguay required a win—a draw would have been useless to them—and Fontana’s side delivered, winning 2-1 at the Maracana thanks to a winner from Alcides Ghiggia.
8. Sepp Herberger
If Juan Lopez Fontana’s Uruguay beat a favoured rival to win the World Cup, Sepp Herberger’s Germany beat a heavily favoured one. Obliterated 8-3 by Hungary in their second match of the 1954 tournament, West Germany looked certain to lose that year’s final just a few weeks later.
But Herberger, who had watched the rain come down in Bern, had the presence of mind to outfit his players with studs on their boots, and when it mattered West Germany were up for the fight. They won 3-2 over the Magical Magyars—Helmut Rahn scoring twice at Wankdorf Stadium.
7. Alf Ramsey, 1966
On paper, England were not the best team at the 1966 World Cup. Portugal, led by Eusebio’s nine goals, were a serious contender, as were Helmut Schon’s West Germany. But Sir Alf Ramsey helped his Three Lions over every obstacle they faced in their home World Cup, and after a difficult path to the final that required one-goal wins over Argentina and Portugal, his side were ready to face the Germans. They prevailed 4-2 after extra time—powered by three goals from Geoff Hurst.
6. Mario Zagallo
Mario Zagallo won the World Cup three times—twice as a player (in 1958 and 1962) and once as a manager, in 1970. The side he oversaw just might have been the greatest to ever grace a football pitch. Three wins from three during the group stage took Zagallo’s Brazil into the quarter-finals in Mexico, where they beat Peru 2-1. Then they saw off Uruguay in Guadalajara before triumphing 4-1 over Italy in one of the most memorable finals of all time.
5. Enzo Bearzot
Enzo Bearzot’s Italy weren’t supposed to win the 1982 World Cup. Brazil were heavy favourites to lift the trophy, and Argentina—with Diego Maradona in the ranks—looked a good bet as well. But after a cagey first group stage in which they scored just twice in three matches, Bearzot’s Azzurri progressed to the next round where, famously, they beat Brazil 3-2 in Barcelona.
From there they were not going to be stopped, and with Paolo Rossi banging in the goals at one end and the likes of Gaetano Scirea and Claudio Gentile keeping them out at the other, Italy won their first World Cup since the 1930s.
4. Carlos Bilardo
Where Menotti couldn’t quite get the best out of Maradona, Carlos Bilardo succeeded in helping the attacker thrive on the international stage. It took a special manager to oversee a squad including not only Maradona, but players such as Sergio Batista, Jorge Burruchaga and Jorge Valdano as well, but Bilardo was up to it. With play flowing through Maradona, Argentina won the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and finished runners-up in 1990, with Bilardo still in charge.
3. Franz Beckenbauer
Runner-up to Bilardo in 1986 was Franz Beckenbauer, who had won the World Cup in 1974 as a player. Appointed West Germany manager in 1984, he guided his countrymen past Morocco, Mexico and France in 1986 before coming up just short against Argentina.
But four years later it was he lifting the trophy aloft and Bilardo watching as a losing finalist. The West Germany side that won the 1990 World Cup did so by overcoming the Albicelestes in an overly physical, cynical final, but with the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann and Lothar Matthaus in the ranks they could play a bit of football, too.
2. Helmut Schon
Helmut Schon coached in two World Cups and twice took West Germany to the final. On the other occasion his side went out at the semi-final round. It was Schon’s outfit that lost to England at Wembley in 1966, and four years later they lost to Italy in extra time, despite a pair of Gerd Muller goals, in what is largely viewed as the greatest international match ever played.
But in 1974 a star-studded cast including Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner, Uli Hoeness and Muller lifted the World Cup in Munich after defeating archrivals Holland in the final.
1. Vittorio Pozzo
Only one man has ever lifted the World Cup twice as manager. Vittorio Pozzo did it for the first time in 1934, when Giuseppe Meazza, Angelo Schiavio and host nation Italy beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 in extra time in Rome. Four years later they retained their championship, with Meazza again leading the way, by beating Hungary 4-2 in Paris. In between the victories, Pozzo also guided Italy to the Olympic gold medal in 1936.