The FIFA World Cup 2022 drama is ramping up to higher pitch, as the world’s top teams head down to the penultimate games — before the final encounter in the once-every-four years spectacle.
For the six teams remaining — down from eight following the heartbreaking exit of Brazil and the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Friday (December 9) — the team managers belong to a league of their own.
Following are the legendary coaches of the last 6 squads with an eye for the moment of glory in Qatar 2022 (as of December 10, 2022):
Lionel Sebastián Scaloni | Age: 44 | Coach since: 2018 | Team: ARGENTINA
Scaloni is a former player and professional football manager who is the coach of the Argentina national team at the Qatar World Cup 2022.
As a player, he operated as a right-back or right midfielder. As a coach, his experience may be scant, but his unexpected success as Argentina's coach — he was able to end a 28-year title drought and set a record of 35 undefeated matches — had a lot to do with his lack of coaching pedigree.
Since Argentina's last title in 1993, experienced coaches such as Daniel Passarella, Marcelo Bielsa, Alejandro Sabella, Gerardo Martino, and Jorge Sampaoli have gone unnoticed. Scaloni was appointed head coach of Argentina's national team by the Argentine Football Association (AFA) in 2018. Since then, he has overseen the transformation of the team into one of the best in the world.
Zlatko Dalić | Age: 56 | Coach since: 2017 | Team: CROATIA
Croatian association football manager Zlatko Dalić has strong links with football in the Gulf, especially the UAE. The Croatian professional football manager and former player has been managing the Croatia national team since 2017 and led them to a runners-up finish at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
His work in the Gulf kicked off in 2012, when Dalić signed a contract with Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal to manage their B team. On February 9, 2013, he made his managerial debut with Al-Hilal against his old club Al-Faisaly in the semi-final of the 2012–13 Saudi Crown Prince Cup. Dalić eventually led Al-Hilal to the cup title – the team's sixth consecutive win–which was also Dalić's second major title in his coaching career.
On March 8, 2014, Dalić was appointed manager of Al-Ain in the UAE. In his first season, he led the team to finish top of their group in the 2014 AFC Champions League, which was the first time since 2006 that the club progressed through the group stage.
On May 14, 2014, Al-Ain defeated league champions Al-Ahli 1-0 in the final game of the UAE President's Cup, securing Dalic's first trophy as Al-Ain manager.
Dalic was honoured as Best Coach of 2014 for his achievements, which included conceding the fewest goals (19), the longest unbeaten run (15 matches), the longest winning streak (8 matches), and the biggest home win against Ajman (7–1). Dalic declared in 2017 that he would only remain as Croatia's head coach if Croatia qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Gareth Southgate | Age: 52 | Coach since: 2016 | Team: ENGLAND
Gareth Southgate OBE is an English professional football manager and former defender and midfielder. He played in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and the European Championships in 2000. Between 1993-94, he captained Crystal Palace to the First Division title and also appeared for Villa in the 2000 FA Cup Final and Middlesbrough in the 2006 UEFA Cup Final.
Southgate earned 57 international games for England between 1995 and 2004. He started every game for England in the 1996 European Championships. After more than 500 league appearances, his playing career ended in May 2006, at the age of 35.
He was Middlesbrough's manager from June 2006 to October 2009. From 2013 to 2016, he also led the England under-21 team before taking over as England national team manager in 2016. Southgate became the third manager (after Alf Ramsey and Bobby Robson) to lead England to a World Cup semi-final in his first tournament as England manager, at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, earning him the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Coach Award.
At UEFA Euro 2020, he became the first England manager to reach the final of a European Championship and the first to reach a major tournament final since 1966; England eventually lost in a penalty shootout to Italy.
Didier Claude Deschamps | Age: 54 | Coach since: 2012 | Team: FRANCE
Didier Claude Deschamps, a French-Basque professional football manager and former player, has been running the France national team since 2012. He was a defensive midfielder for a number of clubs in France, Italy, England, and Spain, including Marseille, Juventus, Chelsea, and Valencia, as well as Nantes and Bordeaux.
Deschamps is known as an intelligent and hardworking defensive midfielder who excelled at winning back possession and subsequently starting attack plays. He also stood out for his leadership throughout his career. He has earned 103 caps and competed in three UEFA European Football Championships and one FIFA World Cup.
After being named manager of the French national team in 2012, he led the team to the quarter-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the final of UEFA Euro 2016, and victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. That makes Deschamps the third man to win the World Cup, both as a player and a manager.
Walid Regragui | Age: 54 | Coach since: August 2022 | Team: MOROCCO
Walid Regragui is a Moroccan ex-defender and the current Morocco national team's head coach. Regragui, who was born in France, has played for Toulouse, AC Ajaccio, Grenoble, and Racing Santander. FIFA has named Morocco's head coach a “hero” – a component of the “magic formula” which led to Morocco's historic qualification in the final 8 of the Qatar World Cup.
After retiring as a player, Regragui began working as an assistant coach for Morocco's national team in September 2012. Rachid Taoussi's contract was ended after he was fired as head coach on October 1, 2013.
On May 8, 2014, he was hired as the head coach of Fath Union Sport for the 2014-15 season. Regragui was hired head coach of Botola club Wydad AC on August 10, 2021, and led the club to its third CAF Champions League victory on May 30, 2022, after defeating defending champions Al Ahly in the finals.
In 2017, he became only the second Moroccan manager to win the African Champions League, after Hussein Ammouta with Wydad. Regragui was named as the new head coach of Morocco's national football team on August 31, 2022, replacing Vahid Halilho. FIFA has named Morocco's head coach a “hero” – a recognition of his magic formula which led to Morocco's historic qualification in the final 8 of the Qatar World Cup.
Fernando Santos | Age: 68 | Coach since: September 2014 | Team: PORTUGAL
Fernando Manuel Fernandes da Costa Santos is considered a master strategist. The national team manager of Portugal had played 161 games over eight seasons and scored two goals in the Primeira Liga.
After retirement, he worked as a coach for several decades, beginning in 1988 with his major club.Santos was the manager of Portugal's Big Three, winning five major championships with Porto. He spent the most of the 2000s in Greece, primarily with AEK Athens and PAOK. He was appointed coach of the Greece national team in 2010, and he led them to a World Cup and a European Championship.
Santos was appointed as Portugal's new manager in 2014, replacing Paulo Bento. His first game in command was a 1-0 win in Denmark for the Euro 2016 qualifiers. The team went on to reach the finals in France. Santos coached Portugal to its first-ever major international conquest on July 10, 2016.
Santos said his decision to leave Cristiano Ronaldo out of his team for Tuesday's 6-1 triumph over Switzerland in World Cup last 16 had been “strategic — and nothing more.” Given the respect he commands, Santos' squad is certainly one of the top teams to watch as the FIFA World Cup 2022 hits the homestretch.