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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 08:21, June 28, 2006
Coaches learn to cope with Cup tension
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Coaches under pressure from the heavy expectations of fans and media back home have found a wide variety of ways to cope with tension on the touchline at the World Cup - smoking, jumping, cursing and even prowling.

Managing a team at the finals has always been a health hazard but Mexico's Ricardo La Volpe increased the risks by chain-smoking on the bench - until FIFA told him to stop.

The intense pressure in Mexico on the Argentine-born coach to ensure his team progressed in the tournament, with critics wanting him sacked regardless, may help explain La Volpe's unusual habit of blowing smoke at his reserve players.

But La Volpe is not the only coach under scrutiny back home to have left his mark on the sidelines.

Germany's Juergen Klinsmann has been reincarnated as the elated striker he was a decade ago, celebrating goals with athletic jumps high into the air, flailing arms and euphoric hugs with the rest of his team.

"You just catch the fever with them," Klinsmann said.

He began his coaching in 2004 with a studied seriousness, smiling and pumping a clenched fist after goals.

But now he seems like a player once again, exploding with joy that seems to uncork the tension after two years of battering from a myriad of German critics and second-guessers.

"There are so many emotions on the bench," the 41-year-old said. "I'm obviously not out there shooting myself. But I'm just happy. The further we go, the more you excited you get."

Swedish calm

Klinsmann has been no match for Portugal's Brazilian-born coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, however.

The emotional Scolari has prowled his technical area like a tiger, bringing a heightened sense of "gamesmanship" by whipping up a storm and doing everything to give his team an advantage.

"Sometimes it is like war... I am used to that," Scolari said after beating the Netherlands 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum, Sweden coach Lars Lagerback remained the epitome of Scandinavian tranquility even after his fancied team were ousted by hosts Germany 2-0.

Lagerback showed almost no emotion before flying home as his team's golden era drew to a premature close, accompanied by a good old-fashioned bashing in the Swedish media.

But Lagerback kept his cool, calmly fending off calls for his head at a news conference in Bremen on Sunday. He looked more like an unflappable accountant than a maligned coach and said he would not quit because he is still under contract.

He added that media had exaggerated expectations.

"Kick Lagerback" was a headline in Sweden's Expressen daily.

"He's a competent tactician," wrote the Aftonbladet. "But cowardly, cautious and weaknesses have long plagued his teams."

Memorable arena

US coach Bruce Arena will also not be forgotten soon.

It did not require any special skill in lip-reading to understand the New Yorker's expletive-filled shouts at the referee who flashed red cards at two of his players and then disallowed a late goal in their 1-1 draw with Italy.

Arena's use of four-letter commentary to the referee in their 2-1 loss to Ghana could also easily be understood by English-speaking TV viewers around the world.

Perhaps the most original coaching strategy in the dugout, though, was used by Saudi Arabia's Brazilian-born coach Marcos Paqueta, their 15th manager in 12 years.

He diagrammed plays in the dugout on a magnetic board, wore small ear plugs and spoke into a tiny hand-held microphone.

Costa Rica coach Alexandre Guimaraes had more to worry about after the finals than when he was pacing the touchline.

He had a premonition in Germany about the stormy welcome awaiting him at home in Latin America after the Ticos lost all three Group A matches. His intuition was proved right.

"Dog! Dog! Dog!" was the shout from a group of unhappy fans when Guimaraes stepped off a plane in San Jose. "Coffee pickers are needed," read a sign. "Only requirement is lack of shame."

Source: China Daily


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