Managers contemplating their futures, waves of international friendlies and the releases of new kits across the globe are just a few of the signs that the World Cup is finally within reach. We have climbed within 100 days of the world’s greatest sporting event just as many world powers battled one another in some of the final tests before South Africa.
International managers are almost always near the end of their jobs and this year is no exception. There are rumors that Guus Hiddink, now late of Russia and currently the head man at Turkey, two countries not involved in this World Cup, might take a flyer on Côte d’Ivoire before fully taking over at Turkey. The Ivorians sacked Vahid Halilhodžić despite his losing only one match in charge seemingly just because the possibility exists to snag Hiddink for a month exists. Elsewhere, England boss Fabio Capello is now being openly courted by Russia with offers similar to the €7m Hiddink brought in last year, sans taxes. Capello would wait until after the World Cup of course before following Hiddink.
France are of course at odds with manager Raymond Domenech with the Parisian crowd chanting for his sacking during the French friendly with Spain on Wednesday. Popular movements now hope for Laurent Blanc to take a leave from Girondins de Bordeaux this summer and take over for the flighty Domenech. And Germany are in a new quandary over their boss Joachim Löw. Löw’s contract ends on June 30, eleven days before the World Cup final. If Germany advance as far as they did as hosts in 2006 the manager’s contract would end before the semi-finals. Many within the German Fußball-Bund think Löw is trying to take control of the entire national team system and would like to see him depart before even leaving for South Africa.
Of course the friendlies do not necessarily mean much as managers were trying different players and testing formations for use this summer. But among those with the biggest questions left to answer after their friendlies this week are Algeria, Slovakia, Ghana, Switzerland and France. Each nation lost in their friendlies with most coming on home soil. Algeria were thrashed by Serbia, another World Cup contestant, 3-0. Slovakia lost to lowly Norway 1-0 while Switzerland and France both lost to other World Cup entrants, Uruguay and Spain respectively. Ghana were upended by Bosnia, surely a disastrous result for the Black Stars. These results could well be misleading but they certainly do not bode well for any of the losing sides. Several clubs impressed greatly including aforementioned Serbia, as well as Argentina (winning in Germany), Spain (winning in France), Uruguay (surprising Switzerland) and Holland (dominating the Americans).
And finally the new kits for almost every country involved in the World Cup have been released by now. Or at least one version anyway. New templates from Puma, Nike and Adidas dominate the landscape with only a few nations abstaining from the big three. Honduras continues with Joma and Chile seems to be sticking with Brooks, though with their friendlies against Costa Rica and North Korea cancelled this week due to the earthquake, it’s still too early to tell. Speaking of North Korea, it should perhaps be unsurprising that their new kits have yet to be released to the world. Fingers are crossed in this space that a likeness of Kim Jong-il will appear on the shirt similar to Getafe’s Burger King kits.