Janne Andersson, Sweden
Andersson took over after a poor Euro 2016 campaign, and did a fabulous job to get Sweden to this World Cup – going through the Netherlands and Italy, and doing it without Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
To his credit, Andersson turned down the chance to bring Ibrahimovic back into the fold ahead of the tournament. The team as it stands doesn’t have a ton of talent, but works hard and is difficult to play against.
Shin Tae-yong, South Korea
Shin coached the U20s and U23s in recent years while serving as assistant for the senior team before taking charge with South Korea laboring towards the end of the final qualification round.
Shin’s hopes are pinned on Tottenham star Song Heung-min, whom the boss fears might be burned out after the long European club season. Expectations are low, and the game against Sweden is a must-win.
Roberto Martinez, Belgium
Belgium has a stupendously talented team, but the incompetent coaching of Marc Wilmots hamstrung it at the last two major tournaments. Martinez, a football intellectual and an absolute gentleman, makes them real contenders.
But, despite an unbeaten qualifying campaign, challenges remain. Kevin De Bruyne criticized Martinez’s tactics last year, and the Spaniard’s preferred 5-3-2 is liable to be overrun in midfield. The team’s mentality is another question – one that helps explain Thierry Henry’s presence as an assistant.
Hernan Dario Gomez, Panama
Gomez is a hugely experienced coach, previously taking both Colombia and Ecuador to the World Cup, and he did a superb job to navigate a meagerly talented Panama team to their first ever appearance at the finals
Gomez isn’t exactly a feel-good story, however. His second spell in charge of Colombia ended in 2011 after he was observed assaulting a woman outside of a Bogotá nightclub.
Nabil Maaloul, Tunisia
The former Tunisian international took the reigns of the national team for a second time just over a year ago, and led the The Eagles of Carthage back to the World Cup for the first time since 2006 after failing to get them there in 2014 and promptly resigning.
Maaloul has injury concerns to deal with, and the unenviable task of contending with both Belgium and England. But his team are well disciplined and strong, especially in midfield, and he’ll relish the chance to finally participate in the finals.
Gareth Southgate, England
Happy with his role leading the U21s, Southgate refused a promotion to the senior management job after Euro 2016, but was pressed in service by default when Sam Allardyce had to resign in a transfer bung scandal.