Historically, foreign-born managers find little success of major value at the World Cup. Only two countries with foreign-adopted coaches reached the final. In 1958, Englishman George Raynor managed to take Sweden to the final as hosts in 1958. Austrian Ernst Happel led the the Netherlands to a second-lace finish in Argentina 1978.

At the 2022 FIFA World Cup, ten out of the 32 head coaches manage a nation different from their respective home country.

Head Coach Birthplace National Team Appointment Year
Gustavo Alfaro Argentina Ecuador 2020
Paulo Bento Portugal South Korea 2018
Vahid Halilhodžić Bosnia and Herzegovina Morocco 2019
John Herdman England Canada 2018
Roberto Martinez Spain Belgium 2016
Gerardo Martino Argentina Mexico 2019
Czesław Michniewicz Belarus Poland 2022
Hervé Renard France Saudi Arabia 2019
Félix Sánchez Spain Qatar 2017
Dragan Skočić Croatia Iran 2020


Breaking that down, eight of these managers are European, and two hail from South America. The teams managed come from four different confederations. Asia leading the way four nations with foreign-born managers at the World Cup.

Tale of Two Continents

While soccer is a global game, elite play developed from philosophies mastered in UEFA and CONMEBOL. Consequently, the managers in the above table all call countries in those two regions home. Nations hiring these foreign-born managers exemplify the belief that European and South American systems are the means to success. After all, the eight teams to ever win a World Cup all come from either Europe or South America.

In this World Cup, most of those teams have somewhat hushed aspirations. That being said, certain teams have eyes set on deep runs in the World Cup, or even a first-ever title.

The foreign-born managers featuring at World Cup 2022

Roberto Martinez is the coach with the most substantial chance of becoming the third foreign-coach to reach the World Cup final. Despite the fact that Belgium’s window appears to be closing, Martinez leads an always-talented band of foot soldiers into Qatar 2022 in top form.

For Gustavo Alfaro’s Ecuador, the spotlight has been on the eligibility of defender Byron Castillo. The Chilean soccer federation accused Ecuador of falsifying details about Castillo’s date of birth. Most recently, Chile appealed FIFA’s decision to overrule the accusations after investigating the claims.

As a result, ‘the Tricolors’ of South America enter as the fourth team to advance from CONMEBOL. Ecuador reached the World Cup with the dynamic duo from LAFC – Diego Palacios and José Cifuentes. Head coach Gustavo Alfaro will join Félix Sánchez’s Qatar as both nations face challenging matches against Group A favorites, the Netherlands and Senegal.

Paulo Bento’s South Korea was the 2nd best team to advance out of AFC. As a result, the Portuguese coach will embark upon challenging Group H fixtures. His team captain, Son Heung-min, has scored an impressive 93 goals in 232 appearances in his tenure for Tottenham.

Vahid Halilhodžić will be coaching a Moroccan side that embarks on their 2nd cycle at the World Cup. Led by winger Hakim Ziyech from Chelsea, Morocco sits in Group F alongside John Herdman’s Canada. However, the Englishman takes comfort in that Alphonso Davies – the star winger from Bayern Munich – intends to lead ‘The Maple Leaf’s’ into the knockout stage.

Hopeful nations

There are several anomalies between Iran and Mexico. As FIFA wags its metronome finger at hate crimes, it remains to be seen if the two nations can resolve their respective controversies. The global governing body of soccer was aghast when the news came out that Iran’s theocracy flouts human rights by deterring female fans with pepper spray. On the other hand, the religious fanbase in Mexico continues their homophobic chants during games. Dragan Skočić and Gerardo Martino could be replaced when the FFI and the FMF elect their vanguard presidents by the end of the summer.

Nonetheless, last-minute swaps ahead of an impending World Cup could exacerbate the problem with drawbacks for either team. Sardar Azmoun of Bayer Leverkusen holds the spotlight as the striker for

Team Melli in Group B, while El Tri’s Hirving Lozano intends to bring fire to Group C, having scored 22 goals in 80 caps for Napoli.

However, Hervé Renard’s Saudi Arabia will relish the opportunity for home-field advantage in Qatar. Perhaps, the Frenchman will have the upper hand against Mexico and Poland in Group C. Czesław Michniewicz leads a Polish side at 100/1 odds entering the World Cup. ‘The Red & Whites’ are captained by arguably the greatest forward in the world, the 33-year-old Robert Lewandowski. Moreover, ‘The Eagles’ stand tall with a wide variety of players who perform in the top five European leagues.

That leaves twenty-two native-born head coaches entering the World Cup. Of the twenty-two, six are perennial favorites to win the tournament. That leaves sixteen underdogs with a 95.2% chance of reaching the final match.

Glorious Underdog

The days of powerhouse dominance seem to be fleeting with every World Cup cycle. Though perennial favorites have consistently passed down soccer to their succeeding generations, significant tournaments throughout history have had underdogs that commanded respect. Primarily since many head coaches have elevated their tactical gameplan, decreasing freewheeling creativity while supplanting it with specific strategies that conserve energy while suiting the strengths of their respective players. Considering the recent success of teams like Belgium and Croatia in 2018 – 3rd place and runners-up, respectively – it should not be a shock when underdogs battle for their nation in the ‘final four’ this December.

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