ROME — The last two World Cup winners, the defending European champion, and a World Cup finalist. Not to mention a Champions League winner and a Premier League champion. There is no shortage of accomplished coaches at the European Championship.
A brief look at six of the top coaches in the tournament:
JOACHIM LÖW (Germany)
Löw has coached more games at the European Championship (17 spread over three editions) and won more matches (11) than any coach in tournament history. While he can add to those numbers this year, Löw has already announced that he will step down after the tournament. Löw has been in charge for nearly 200 games — the most memorable being a 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semifinals. Germany then beat Argentina to win the World Cup. But Germany finished last in its group at the 2018 World Cup and Löw has since gone back on a decision to drop experienced players Thomas Müller and Mats Hummels. Expectations are low for this Germany time.
DIDIER DESCHAMPS (France)
Deschamps captained France to titles at the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship and is now looking to complete a similar double as coach of Les Bleus after guiding the team to the 2018 World Cup title. Deschamps could have been chasing a third consecutive title if his team had not lost the 2016 European Championship final to Portugal. Deschamps, who took over France in 2012, previously coached Monaco, Juventus (in Serie B) and Marseille. France is a favorite for another title.
FERNANDO SANTOS (Portugal)
Santos coached Portugal to the European title in 2016 then also won the inaugural UEFA Nations League with a squad led by Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s one of five coaches to have led two different teams at the European Championship after being in charge of Greece in 2012. His career as a club coach has also gone back and forth between Portugal and Greece with stints at Porto, AEK Athens, Panathinaikos, Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and PAOK. Portugal is not expected to repeat its 2016 success.
ZLATKO DALIĆ (Croatia)
Dalić is the rare European coach who made a name for himself in the Middle East. A former midfielder who never represented his country, Dalić coached Al-Hilal to the Saudi Crown Prince Cup then reached the Asian Champions League final with Al-Ain. Croatian soccer federation president Davor Šuker has acknowledged that it was a gamble hiring Dalić in 2017. But the gamble paid off immediately when Dalić guided Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final. Duplicating the success of 2018 would be a surprise.
LUIS ENRIQUE (Spain)
Having won just about everything as coach of Barcelona, including the Champions League, Luis Enrique is still looking to leave his mark with Spain. He left the Spain job for five months in 2019 to be with his 9-year-old daughter, Xana, who died of a type of bone cancer. Now he’s attempting to make Spain the first four-time European champion and he’s going to do it without any Real Madrid players — marking a first for Spain at a major tournament. “Lucho,” as the coach is known, decided to drop Sergio Ramos following a season in which the veteran defender was plagued by injuries. Spain is considered an outside contender.
ROBERTO MANCINI (Italy)
A former star forward for Italy, a Serie A champion as both player and coach, and a Premier League winner as manager of Manchester City, Mancini guided Italy to a perfect 10 wins in 10 qualifying matches. He was tasked with reviving an Azzurri squad that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and has already been given a contract extension through the 2026 World Cup. A four-time World Cup champion, Italy’s lone European Championship title came in 1968. A title isn’t expected of Italy this time.