African coaches make history
For the first time ever, all five of Africa’s World Cup-bound representatives will be coached by local coaches at the grandest stage of all.
In the past, federations have turned to European or South American coaches in order to help their national sides excel at the global showpiece, although these appointments have led to mixed results.
This time, however, Africa’s qualifiers have turned to homegrown bosses, but how will this quintet fare when it comes to reaching the knockouts?
5. Rigobert Song
Playing legend, but the jury remains out on Song as a head coach.
He claims to be calmer these days, following an aneurysm suffered in 2016, but his previous experience overseeing Cameroon’s home-based team doesn’t particularly bode well.
He must take some credit for the magical playoff victory over Algeria, although questions remain about how influential Samuel Eto’o is over team selection and motivational speeches, leaving Song as something of a puppet head coach.
Which of the pair must take the blame for the baffling decision to omit stalwart Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui from the World Cup squad?
4. Jalel Kadri
Has held over 25 different coaching and managerial positions during a nomadic career in which he’s never stayed anywhere for longer than a year.
Kadri was never a footballer himself, but has extensive experience across North Africa and the Gulf.
This is comfortably his biggest job, and largely he’s fared well since being promoted from being Mondher Kebaier’s assistant coach during the poor Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
Since then, Kadri oversaw World Cup qualification—admittedly against a limited Mali team—and has ensured that Tunisia’s defence kept seven consecutive clean sheets.
3. Otto Addo
Highly rated managerial wonderkid who has held backroom positions with HSV Hamburg, Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund, having previously represented BVB during a 16-year playing career in German football.
His stock is high after tactically outclassing Nigeria and poor Augustine Eguavoen in the World Cup playoff between the two rivals, although Ghana arguably haven’t kicked on in the subsequent months.
He also deserves credit for creating an environment in which several dual nationality players have committed themselves to the Black Stars, even if Eddie Nketiah and Calum Hudson-Odoi are not involved in the Word Cup.
2. Walid Regragui
Riding a wave of popularity after replacing Vahid Halilhodzic, who had alienated some of the squad’s top talents, Regragui may lack experience, but indications so far are that he’s destined for a long coaching career.
He’s already won the Caf Champions League with Wydad Casablanca, and knows the national side well after earning 45 caps before taking a role as assistant head coach.
French-born, during his playing career, he represented the likes of Toulouse, Ajaccio and Grenoble.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
1. Aliou Cisse
Dignified figure who’s overseen a dramatic improvement in Senegal’s standing since taking the reins in 2015, with the Teranga Lions ranked 36th in the world.
Cisse’s subsequently taken them to back-to-back World Cups while overseeing the nation’s first ever Africa Cup of Nations success in Cameroon earlier this year.
Already a legend from his playing career, where he was a member of Senegal’s golden team in 2002, and has taken his standing in his homeland to new heights following his noble management of the national side.