Commentary

World Cup Countdown: When getting a team to the finals isn't enough

Qualifying a team for the World Cup should be enough for a coach to be rewarded and take the team to the finals, but a national team coach's job is rarely secure.

Eight teams are headed to the World Cup after making coaching changes during successful qualifying campaigns. And three more teams are in the process of changing coaches for the finals themselves. That's more than a third of the field in the finals that won't be going to Russia with the coach that began qualifying.

World Cup 2018 finalists, Coaching changes:
Feb. 2016 Morocco Out: Badou Ezzaki, In: Herve Renard
June 2016 Brazil: Out: Dunga, In: Tite.
Aug. 2016 Nigeria Out: Sunday Oliseh, In: Gernot Rohr.
Sept. 2016 England Out: Sam Allardyce, In: Gareth Southgate
April 2017 Tunisia Out: Henryk Kasperczak, In: Nabil Maaloul
Aug. 2016/June 2017 Argentina Out: Gerardo Martino, In/Out: Edgardo Bauza, In: Jorge Sampaoli
June 2017
South Korea Out: Uli Stielike, In: Shin Tae-Yong.
Oct. 2017 Croatia Out: Ante Cacic. In: Zlatko Dalic.
Oct. 2017 Serbia Out: Slavoljub Muslin. In: Mladen Krstajic.
Sept. 2017/Nov. 2017 Saudi Arabia Out: Bert van Marwijk. In/Out: Edgardo Bauza
Nov. 2017 Australia Out: Ange Postecoglou.

In the case of Croatia, the move came with one game to play as Ante Cacic was replaced by Zlatko Dalic. Argentina used three coaches, beginning with Gerardo Martino, now at Atlanta United, followed by Edgardo Bauza and barely qualifying with Jorge Sampaoli.

Three coaches who qualified their teams to the 2018 World Cup finals -- Bert van Marwijk, Ange Postecoglou and Slavoljub Muslin -- won't be around for the finals in Russia.

-- Van Marwijk, who took his native Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final, was released by the Saudi Arabia Football Federation in September in a dispute with the federation over his coaching staff and preparation plans.

The Dutchman said no to returning to the job on Wednesday after his replacement, Bauza, was fired following poor results in five friendly games. For Bauza, it was the third national team has left in six months. He was fired as Argentina's national team coach in June and coached the United Arab Emirates for the final two games of Asian qualifying.

-- Muslin led Serbia to first place in Europe's Group D but he was fired within days after qualification. He preferred to rely on veteran players while some at the Serbian federation wanted him to bring in younger players.

Serbia won the 2015 U-20 World Cup under now-Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic, whose name has been mentioned as a possible successor to Muslin. Mladen Krstajic was appointed as interim coach for matches against China and South Korea in November, though, and may very well end up getting the job of taking Serbia to Russia.

-- The biggest surprise was Postecoglou's decision to quit as Australia's national team coach. He had led the Socceroos to their first Asian championship in 2015 and he coached what is not considered a great team to the finals in Russia after surviving two playoff rounds against Syria and Honduras. But he said he no longer had the energy for the job and wanted to spend more time with his young family in Melbourne.

“To lead them at the 2014 World Cup, to win the Asian Cup in 2015 and now to have qualified for the World Cup next year," Postecoglou said. "I said we would do it and we have done it. All this, however, has taken a toll on me both personally and professionally."

Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Australia share one thing, and that's all three teams will be placed in Pot 4 for the World Cup draw, making them underdogs at the finals.

All three jobs will be tough ones, but plenty of coaches would jump at the chance to take a team to the World Cup.

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