Four critical business lessons from World Cup 2018 football managers

14 June 2018 -

Fifa World CupThese World Cup football managers have a distinctive management style – here’s what we can learn

Jermaine Haughton

The jewel in the sporting crown, the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia will see leading football managers compete to lead their teams to glory from June 14 2018. Each has a different management style that they hope will be victorious.



Who: Tite, manager of Brazil

Key Lesson: Charismatic communication and competitor analysis are crucial

Draped in samba gold, Brazil rank as the most successful and famous side in the World Cup, having won the trophy five times. However, the Seleção’s embarrassing 7-1 semi-final defeat to eventual winner Germany four years ago confirmed its crown had slipped.

The charismatic Tite is leading Brazil’s revival by adopting a consultative management style filled with wisdom. The approach is aimed at uniting a young, ambitious group of talented players with big egos to match.

As a tactician, the ‘hip priest’ has studied the shift in playing style of the best teams in Europe – including the last two World Cup holders Germany and Spain – ditching a slow, free-flowing and individualistic strategy in favour of a more compact, energetic style that focuses on creating numeric advantages in key areas of the pitch.

This has already resulted in Brazil winning their first Olympic gold in the men’s football in 2016, and breezing through the World Cup qualifying stages by scoring 30 goals.


Who: Joachim Low, manager of Germany

Key lesson: Simplify, simplify, simplify!

After leading Germany to World Cup glory in 2014, Joachim Low is now aiming to become only the second manager to win the famous golden trophy twice.

Business leaders can learn plenty from Low’s dynamic, youthful and aggressive approach. Low strives to simplify football tactics and avoids obsessing over systems.

This means the German team has become multi-functional and able to transition from defence to attack instantly. In 2011, Low explained his vision: "Individual skill is the most important factor in training, more important than the system. We need to make the simple into the very special: the passing game, the timing, the pressing and trapping, the game without the ball, how we deal with one-on-one situations, how we quickly find solutions in small spaces.”


Who: Didier Deschamps, manager of France

Key lesson: Ruthless decision-making benefits the whole team

Speaking in 2004, as a young manager, he explained: “[Football] taught me that you have to keep everything separated," he admits. "Management is about making the right decisions, not the popular ones."

The former captain of the French football team, who helped his country lift the 1998 World Cup, is an infamously ruthless decision-maker and has already managed France to the final of the 2016 European Championships, where they narrowly lost to Portugal.

Aiming to build a French team void of the social clichés and disruptive influences that have hampered its performances in past tournaments, Deschamps’ meticulous approach includes prioritising the recruitment of players with high collaborative skills and a team ethic over those with superior individual skill.

Deschamps has axed superstar names such as 2017-18 Champions League winner Karim Benzema, Manchester United star Anthony Martial and former stalwart Franck Ribery. Benzema and Samir Nasri were also omitted from past teams due to their unsettling influence.


Gareth Southgate, manager of England

Key lesson: Build for the long-term with a definitive working culture

Picking a young, pacey and exuberant team, the former England youth team manager’s approach exhibits the importance of balancing the demands of short-term current challenges, in line with long term ambitions.

After sailing through the World Cup qualifying stages, Southgate is batting away hopes of winning the tournament by focusing on using the opportunity to implement higher standards and stronger foundations across the whole English football set-up that can last for many more years to come.

He said: "We're trying to change the style of play, we have our young players developing better technical ability with the ball. We know these players and we believe that, in the long term, some of them can be world-class players.”

To do this, Southgate has already created a strong pathway for junior players into the men’s senior squad, as well as selecting players who show an aptitude to taking calculated risks. England’s new generation of defenders and goalkeepers are more comfortable on the ball and Southgate is encouraging them to show that ability in attack.

Image: Shutterstock

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