In an illustration of their depth, just nine of the squad from two summers ago have made the team for Russia. But though Deschamps had his contract renewed for four more years, he’s been criticized for not getting more, more consistently, from his exceptionally capable team. The pressure is on.
Bert van Marwijk, Australia
Australia had a tumultuous road to Russia – going through two playoffs and traveling more miles than any other team in the world – and, though it ended happily, manager Ange Postecoglou decided he’d had enough: he resigned after the final qualifier, and is now coaching in Japan.
Postecoglou was hugely influential, playing an extremely attacking brand of football, and van Marwijk has big shoes to fill. He’s a pragmatic coach (as the 2010 final attests) but he’ll do well not to tinker too much with Postecoglou’s formula.
Ricardo Gareca, Peru
Soccer-crazed Peru’s qualification for its first World Cup since 1982 was one of the best stories of qualifying.
Their buildup to the tournament, though, has been dominated by star striker Paulo Guerrero’s drug ban. He’s now set to miss the tournament, though the country’s president has called on its law enforcement apparatus to intervene on his behalf.
Whatever happens, the well-traveled Ricardo Gareca, tasting the tournament for the first time after being left out of the Argentina team that won it all in 1986, has molded a well-balanced, aggressive team. A win or two, and he’s a national hero.
Åge Hareide, Denmark
Morton Olsen’s resignation after he failed to qualify Denmark for Euro 2016 marked the end of an era. Olsen had been the longest-tenured manager in international football, in charge of the Danes since 2000.
In his place, Denmark opted for more experience. The former Norway coach Hareide has won titles at the club level in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, and he’s a fairly commanding presence.
Jorge Sampaoli, Argentina
Sampaoli made Chile one of the world’s most fearsome teams earlier in the decade, and, having guided Sevilla into the Champions League, was the obvious choice to take over from Bauza with his native country struggling in qualifying last year.
The hope was that Sampaoli’s Marcelo Bielsa-inspired frenetic, high pressing system would give Argentina an identity outside of Lionel Messi, but that has yet to happen. It took a Messi hat trick to secure qualification, and the team is still lost without him.