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You can take your Super Bowl. 

You have can your Olympics.

Nothing, but nothing captivates the world's hearts like the World Cup. This despite the organizing body, FIFA, which surely should have as its logo a greased palm. 

Football -- or saacker, to some of you -- is so elemental and so beautiful that the whole world gathers around its TVs and bars to watch the spectacle.

Sometimes, that spectacle can seem dull. Especially when the game goes to penalties, which some Americans depressingly call PK's. 

You though, because you're obsessed with leading throngs towards untold moneymaking, will only be watching for the leadership skills on display.

Here is my guide to help you embrace the leadership nuances of the best teams in the competition. 

1. Germany.

For many people, Germany is the favorite to repeat. And, indeed, the team has a very good chance. Principally because it understands the concept of team. Its coach, Joachim Löw, behaves with a relatively quiet ruthlessness. He left behind the quite brilliant Manchester City winger Leroy Sane, because he didn't feel that Sane fit his system. Yes, it's a surprise that Germany likes to embrace systematic play, I know. His early Beatles-era haircut doesn't immediately scream authority. But he's had the job since 2006, so he must know how to lead. Beware, though, that he has several personal mannerisms on the touchline -- nose-picking, for example -- that you don't want to replicate in meetings.

2. France.  

French players have been known to enjoy internecine warfare. There are a few egos on this team and they don't always find each other charming. Leading them is the somewhat diminutive Didier Deschamps. He has very strong ideas about leadership. "I think it is something that's in you, that you're born with, and which develops. Some people have that character, that personality and it comes naturally. You can't force it," he once told the Guardian. Oddly, Deschamps was known to force it quite often as a player. He's also not that much of a charmer as a coach. He has a Code of Conduct and each player is forced to have a copy in their room. He also doesn't believe young players have talent. "Talent is something that you are able to show at a high level over a period of time. We're talking about consistency, that's talent. Talent has to be confirmed," he says. I fear that at the end of the tournament, it will be confirmed that there were a few issues in the French camp.

3. Brazil.

In Brazil, many of the players have only one name. The coach only has one name, too. He's called Tite. You pronounce it Chee-Chee. He took over a miserable team that had been humiliated 7-1 during the last World Cup. By Germany. Worse, Brazil was the host country. Tite is, therefore, a restorer of pride. Some say, though, that he has a difficult time dropping loyal players. This is a big danger in a competition like the World Cup, in which suspensions and tiredness can have deep consequences. Worse, in the latter stages many teams play for a draw, hoping to win the penalty shootout. Tite will be caught between traditional Brazilian joy and swagger and a tendency toward conservatism. He's not so famous in Europe, unlike so many other Brazilian players and coaches. He does, though, have a whole team who are. I worry about him under the brightest of lights. Then again, he has Philippe Countinho and a host of other glorious players at his disposal. Sometimes, you need very good employees.

4. Portugal. 

The most beautiful and sane country in the world has recently enjoyed success by playing football that is insanely dull. It won the last European Championship even though it hardly won an actual game throughout the whole tournament. In charge of this homage to catatonia is Fernando Santos, a man who constantly looks like his car has just been struck from behind. Santos emphasizes defensive organization, which is a tragedy when his team enjoys one of the best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo. It's as if you put the CFO in charge of your innovative company and told him not to lose money or take risks. He has an additional burden in this World Cup. Several of his players play for Sporting Lisbon and are desperately trying to get out of their contracts with the club, after a mob of 50 fans attacked them at their training ground. 50 Sporting Lisbon fans, that is. The president of the club allegedly encouraged the attack. This will take some leadership from Santos.

5. Belgium.

Many might not be aware that Belgium enjoys some of the world's most talented players. Goalkeeper Thibault Courtois is as good as any. Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Toby Alderweireld are among the best at their respective positions. Yet their coach is a man who isn't known for, well, winning things. Roberto Martinez is a Spaniard who managed Swansea City, Wigan Athletic and Everton in the English Premier League. His triumphs were truly minor. His greatest advantage, some might sniff, is that he's quite good on TV. Here, though, he has to coach a team that may be on its last chance to reflect its real and deep talent. Some might think this is like promoting your Head of Sales to CEO. And who would ever do that? This is heady territory. 

6. Argentina.

You've surely heard of Lionel Messi, the greatest pure talent in the competition. His coach, Jorge Sampaoli is clever enough to describe his squad as "Lionel Messi's team." Not every boss trusts his star to this degree. Messi is that good. Sampaoli, though, has a rare attitude. He's one of the few coaches in this World Cup who truly believes that attack is the best form of winning. He's also one of the few coaches adorned in a vast array of tattoos. Though Argentina has always had a strong team, with some wincingly robust defenders, it's recently not fared quite as well in World Cups. If the team plays to the tune of Sampaoli's heart, it might be an irresistible spectacle. A small part of me wants the Sampaoli way to win it all.

7. Spain.

This team, a previous winner, is currently something of a leadership laughing stock. On the eve of the World Cup's commencement, it fired coach Julen Lopetegui. You see, the news had slipped out that Lopetegui would be Real Madrid's new coach after the World Cup ended. And he'd only signed an extension to his Spain contract three weeks ago. So he got red-carded, leaving the team red-faced. The players rather liked him. The Spanish Football Federation waffled on about principles. Actually, it had something of a point, as many of the players come from bitter rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona. Might Lopetegui have favored the Madrid player, given that he would soon be seeing them every day? Lopetegui's replacement? Why, Fernando Hierro, a famous former captain of, oh, Real Madrid. Now this, for him, will be fascinating leadership challenge. "We must show maturity in this moment. It is not about understanding what has happened, but dealing with the reality," he said. Now aren't those the words of a leader? A worried leader.

Published on: Jun 13, 2018
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