They have their task cut out

Their minds tick all the time, fashioning strategies, honing skills. A look at the top coaches, who will be displaying their wares in World Cup 2002.


Only Brazil and Italy have done what France coach Roger Lemerre is trying to achieve this summer - successfully defend the World Cup. Ever since he beat out bigger names to the post, including Jean Tigana and Guy Roux, the former boss of the French military side and Aime Jacquet's assistant at France 98 has steadily silenced the doubters. A win at Euro 2000 and a canny ability in knowing who to discard and who to select, has left Lemerre, six times capped by France as a player, with a squad capable of repeating their former triumph. Uncomfortable in the spotlight and often confuses the media with somewhat cryptic comments. At Euro 2000 he even refused to speak to reporters who he claimed were unprofessional. His prowess has come out in no uncertain terms however as a tracksuit coach during training sessions where his rapport with the players, for the most part, could not be better.


Won 81 caps for Spain and eight Spanish league titles with Real Madrid, and gained a reputation as a fearsome defender, before moving into coaching. Coached at Rayo Vallecano, Espanyol and Sevilla before taking over at Real Madrid from the sacked Jupp Heynckes. However, Camacho resigned after 22 days after a disagreement with then Real President Lorenzo Sanz. Was out of a job when Javier Clemente resigned as Spanish national coach in September 1998, the wake of Spain's disastrous 1998 World Cup finals campaign and ignominious start to Euro 2000 qualifying. Since then Camacho has used nearly 70 different players, 46 of which made their debut in a Spanish jersey, in a bid to find the right blend for the World Cup.


Former Milan defender who won four Italian league titles and the 1963 European Cup. Maldini was the Italian under-21 coach and assistant to Enzo Bearzot when Italy won the 1982 World Cup. Took over the reins of the Italian senior side in December 1996 but blamed by home fans for the Azzuri's inconspicuous campaign at France 98 where they only reached the quarter-finals. Took over Paraguay in November 2001, after they had already qualified for the World Cup finals, when the previous coach Sergio Markarian was sacked after rows with the Paraguayan football federation. Paraguayan football federation officials let it be known that Maldini was only their third choice after approaches to Louis van Gaal and Carlos Bianchi had been rebuffed. Defensive-minded with a preference for a 5-3-2 formation, with three central defenders.


Win or lose, Luiz Felipe Scolari will have gone through the wars by the time July comes around this year, signalling the end of the greatest footballing show on Earth. Brazil, going for a record fifth world title, partied for six months after their 1994 win and mourned for a similar period after their final loss four years later. Scolari's decision to drop former World Cup star Romario as well as the physical nature of the current side, as against the beautiful game embodied by their 1970 title-winning team, has earned him detractors. He is even believed to have told his rugged players, such as hard man Emerson, to deliberately foul which has gone against the aesthetic, eye-catching, brilliance of former champions. No one, but no one will get more stick than Scolari during the month or so of World Cup action unless Brazil win their fifth title hand-in-hand with their legendary style and panache.


Took over the job in the wake of Humberto Coelho's surprise and sudden resignation after Portugal's defeat in the Euro 2000 semi-finals. Now in his second spell as the national team coach having previously being in charge for between 1994-96, culminating in taking Portugal to the Euro 96 quarter-finals. He has also coached the Portuguese Olympic and under-21 sides. At club level he started his coaching career at Sporting Lisbon in 1982 and then worked at Maritimo, Academica and Sporting Braga. Went to Porto after resigning as Portuguese national coach in the summer of 1996 and immediately led them to two successive Portuguese titles in 1997 and 1998 before, briefly, moving over the border to work in Spain at Real Betis. Won 24 caps for Portugal in the midfield, and played for firstly his home town club Penafiel and then Porto, Sporting Lisbon and Real Betis.


Has done a fine job rebuilding the team's morale after a disastrous tenure under Erich Ribbeck which reached its nadir with a humiliating first round exit in Euro 2000. Voller started brightly with the 1-0 win over England at Wembley which precipitated Kevin Keegan's departure. But the wheels came off with a 5-1 home defeat against the English which left Germany needing to qualify via playoffs. A highly experienced international, Voller played in two World Cup finals, losing to a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina in 1986 before avenging the defeat four years later at Italia 90. Scored 47 goals in his 90 international appearances, Voller retired following the 2-1 defeat by Bulgaria in the 1994 finals.


A knee injury brought to an abrupt end Eriksson's undistinguished playing career as a defender for Swedish second division side Karlskoga. In 1976 he was appointed coach of Swedish third division side Degerfors and within three years had guided them to the top flight. After winning the UEFA Cup with IFK Gothenburg in 1982 he joined Benfica in Portugal, where he won two championships and the domestic cup in two seasons. Eriksson arrived in Italy in 1984-85 and took the helm at Roma before moving to Fiorentina two seasons later. In 1989 he returned to Benfica and led them to the 1990 European Cup final and the 1991 league title. He went back to Italy two years later to join Sampdoria and spent five years there before leaving for Lazio, winning the Winners Cup in 1999 followed by the 2000 league title. The Swede was confirmed as England coach in October 2000.


Lars Lagerback moved into coaching in 1977 after a modest playing career, and became involved in international management three years later. He worked at junior levels for five years before being appointed B team coach, and was appointed assistant senior team coach in 1995 under Tommy Svensson. Tommy Soderberg replaced Svensson in 1998 and initially took sole control, but a year later he asked Lagerback to join him in leading the national team. Soderberg is a former schoolteacher who has never coached outside of Sweden and enjoyed limited success as a player. Eleven years later he was asked to manage Sweden's under-21 side before stepping up to coach the senior team in 1998. Lagerback and Soderberg helped take Sweden to the Euro 2000 championships in Holland and Belgium after an impressive qualifying campaign. They repeated their success in the campaign to qualify for this year's World Cup finals, with Sweden unbeaten in 10 group fixtures, albeit in a relatively easy group.


Marcelo Bielsa took the reins for Argentina when the legendary Daniel Passarella stood down after the 1998 World Cup in France. The former central defender took the job in controversial circumstances, having joined Spanish club Espanyol just a month before. It was too good an opportunity for Bielsa to turn down and following protracted discussions the Barcelona side agreed to let him go. Notoriously eccentric, Bielsa began his coaching career with Newell's Old Boys in Argentina before moving to Mexico to lead Club Atlas. This was followed by spells at rival Mexican teams Club America and Velez Sarsfield. The result of such low profile positions was that Bielsa was a virtual unknown to the Argentine public on his appointment, and it has taken the fans a long time to get used to this brooding figure. An intense character, Bielsa has inherited a squad brimming with talent that breezed through the qualification campaign, with just one defeat in 18 matches.


At the age of 63, Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni will make his World Cup debut 40 years after he was denied by injury a chance to star on the big stage in Chile as a player in 1962. Trapattoni, whose coaching mentor was his AC Milan boss Nereo Rocco, has since produced a coaching career second to none in Italy at club level where he has has taken charge of the big three - AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus - as well as Cagliari and Fiorentina. With Juve he won the European Cup that was tarnished by the Heysel disaster and the Intercontinental Cup, six Scudetto and a host of other prizes in Italy and Europe. Also won Scudetto with Inter. Had a successful spell with Bayern Munich whom he led to German title. A devout Catholic he replaced Dino Zoff as Italy coach after the almost successful Euro 2000 campaign.


Mexico's place in the World Cup Finals was far from assured when Javier Aguirre was called in to steady a badly listing ship after first Manuel Lapente and then Enrique Meza were sacked during the qualification campaign. But the coach dubbed 'El Vasco' in Mexico quickly salvaged the Aztecs and navigated them safely into the finals of the 2002 tournament. He starred for Mexico as a midfielder in the 1986 World Cup, assisted Miguel Baron in 1994 in the United States and now gets the chance on the big stage as head coach. Learned his coaching trade at Real Madrid. A disciplinarian who is not afraid to upbraid his players in public he is also smarter than your average coach but has already ruled out Mexico's chances of winning the World Cup, saying his aim is a place in the second round.


Three-time Belgian coach of the year Robert Waseige took over a demoralised national side in August 1999 but has slowly but surely instilled the Red Devils with a solid team spirit. Former coach Georges Leekens led Belgium to three draws and first round elimination from France 1998 after constantly changing his line up. But with consistency in his selection and hands-on man-motivating methods, Waseige's Belgium is made of sterner stuff and have qualified for their sixth consecutive World Cup finals. Waseige is not prone to experimentation and has a very clear idea of who his first choice eleven are. With 31 years in coaching, including spells at Sporting Lokeren, Charleroi and Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon, he has also earned a reputation as a no nonsense disciplinarian.