BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa -- On Friday night, shortly before Spain's match against Chile at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, a couple of English journalists were accosted by a German colleague. Who was the better manager, he asked his British counterparts,
If Sunday's second round game against England will really be decided by the managerial pedigree of the two men on the benches, Germany might as well call it a day now and spend a day doing something a little bit more fun instead. On the one hand, there's Capello, Don Fabio, the Feldmaresciallo (field marshal), as the Italians used to call him. Record: Four Italian championships with AC Milan, one with AS Roma, two with Juventus (both rescinded after the Calciopoli scandal). Two more championships with Real Madrid in Spain. Plus a Champions League, in 1994, when his Milan side destroyed Johan Cruyff's widely fancied Barcelona 4-0. It was the best European final performance in modern times.
On the other side of the fourth official: Jogi. The 50-year-old will no doubt look resplendent in a suave outfit that matches co-assistant
Löw might become a Capello one day, of course, especially if he manages to secure a job at a European heavyweight team in the future. In the meantime, we must conclude that Capello has been there and done it at club level, whereas Löw has only been an intern, looking at the work of great managers like Arsène Wenger who've been there and done that.
A great club record alone is not in itself proof of a good national team manager, however. And a good team manager might not be cut out for club management at all: remember Brazilian World Cup winner
It's now largely forgotten but Capello did try all sorts of different formations after taking on the "Impossible Job" (copyright English tabloid press) in December 2007. His first game against Switzerland (2-1) saw a 4-3-2-1 formation with
Löw is much less of a pragmatist than Capello and more of a footballing ideologue. He was the brains behind
Capello has surrounded himself with fellow Italians, with
Germany's young, amenable players are eager to please and learn. Löw has had no difficulty with them because he identified potential troublemakers (
Result: Narrow win for Löw
Winning things is an addiction that Capello is happy to feed. "I exist to win," he said. He's remained incredibly cool in the face of imminent meltdown this week and made all the right calls during the Slovenia game, even to the point of taking (the slightly injured) Rooney off. He exudes the aura of a man who gets the big decisions right. Even in the friendlies leading up to the World Cup, his substiutions and slight tactical alterations at halftime have continually brought benefits. You'd trust the man they called Geometra (the surveyor) during his Juve playing days to see things clearly in the heat of battle and draw the right conclusions.
Löw is a great planner and strategist but not the greatest of improvisers. Two painful defeats -- a 2-1 against Croatia in the Euros and the loss to Serbia last week -- demonstrated that when the going gets tough, Löw doesn't get going. He panicked and needlessly changed the shape of the team by over-loading the box with strikers and making substitutions that backfired badly. Bringing on
Result: Easy win for Capello