Sampaoli is a hugely capable coach, but he has big job in front of him to get Argentina in shape mentally and tactically before the tournament starts.
Heimir Hallgrímsson, Iceland
Co-manager with Lars Lagerback at Euro 2016, the native Icelander Hallgrímsson, a trained dentist who has also coached professional women’s football is now alone in charge and preparing to lead his side into their first ever World Cup.
Hallgrímsson has kept the team from the Euros almost completely intact, and because of how long they’ve played together, Iceland functions more like a club team than a national team. It’s an extremely tight-knit group, and the coach is an integral part of it.
Zlatko Dalic, Croatia
As is typical, there was drama abound in qualifying for Croatia. No one was particularly sad to see Ante Cacic go when he was fired just days before the final qualifier against Ukraine, but neither was anyone particularly heartened when they learned the identity of his successor.
Dalic’s appointment came out of left field. The 51-year-old was known to his bosses from his stint coaching the country’s U21s, but he had been coaching in the Middle East since 2010 and was only a middling player.
He’s appointed a famous assistant coach in Ivica Olic, but he’s fighting an uphill battle for respect ahead of the tournament.
Gernot Rohr, Nigeria
A stalwart defender for Bordeaux in the 80s, Rohr moved from France to Africa in 2010 and took the Nigeria job in 2016 after spells in charge of Gabon, Niger, and Burkina Faso, and worked wonders almost immediately.
Rohr is known as a disciplinarian and a perfectionist, but he’s done well to trust younger players during his two years in charge rejuvenate a team that has endured a difficult decade. What kind of freedom he allows them to play with in Russia remains to be seen.
Brazil should have hired Tite after the 2014 World Cup, but they made the baffling decision to rehire Dunga instead and paid two years’ worth of moribund performances. Tite finally got the call in the summer of 2016, and he hasn’t disappointed.
The longtime Corinthians coach is a renowned tactician, and he’s done his part to Europeanize Brazil. The team is improved in transition and more cohesive on both sides of the ball than they have been in years.
Tite can communicate too – former Uruguay captain Diego Lugano once called him a “snake charmer” – and Dani Alvas said he’s best coach he’s ever played for. He has his country believing again.