Vladimir Petkovic, Switzerland
A Bosnian-Croat migrant to Switzerland shortly before the outbreak of the Bosnian War, Petkovic is a fascinating character: he speaks eight languages and worked for a Catholic social services organization while launching his coaching career.
He’s now coming up on four years in charge of the Swiss, and has already had his contract extended for another two after this summer’s tournament. Results during his tenure thus far have been solid if unspectacular, reflecting the team’s talent level, and a knockout round appearance would likely qualify this summer as a success.
Oscar Ramirez, Costa Rica
A legend with Costa Rican club giant Alejuelense, Ramirez signed on to be Paulo Wonchope’s assistant with the Ticos in 2015 but was thrust shortly thereafter into the hotseat when Wonchope departed after getting into a fight at a game in Panama.
So far, things have gone smoothly. Costa Rica qualified in style, winning the Hexagonal, and Ramirez’s 5-4-1 has been extraordinarily difficult to break down. No one in Costa Rica expects a repeat of four years ago, but this team should compete.
Mladen Krstajic, Serbia
A star center back for Serbia and Montenegro’s combined 2006 World Cup team and Bundesliga veteran as a player, Krastajic was a part of Slavoljub Muslin’s staff and took over when Muslin was fired shortly after qualification had been secured.
With no prior management experience, Krastajic faces a steep learning curve. He’s changed Serbia’s formation from a 3-4-3 to a 4-3-3 and stripped Branislav Ivanovic of the captaincy, and still has questions to answer before the tournament starts.
Joachim Low, Germany
Low is an institution with Germany, and twelve years into his reign, he no plans to go anywhere: despite being linked to Arsenal and Bayern Munich in recent months, he just extended his contract with the national team through 2022.
Low leads hugely sophisticated, data-driven German program, and his teams are consistently cohesive and mentally tough. A seventh straight major tournament semifinal is the minimum expectation, but victory would cement his place in history.
Juan Carlos Osorio, Mexico
Osorio is an eccentric, and he has been criticized mercilessly in Mexico – especially for his squad rotation policy – and his having made it to this stage as Mexico coach at all, after humiliating tournament defeats in the last two summers, is a minor miracle.
And yet, the Colombian is popular with his team and apparently turned down the opportunity to extend his contract earlier in the year. His name has been floated for the US job, but much will depend on how far he can take El Tri this summer.