Why great coaching is crucial to success

Crucial coaching decisions can sometimes be overlooked in key moments when two elite sides square...

Crucial coaching decisions can sometimes be overlooked in key moments when two elite sides square off. (REUTERS)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:17 PM ET

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- Brazil blown out at home: How could it happen?

The Spanish, the defending champs, pasted by the Dutch in their World Cup opener.

Who could have predicted it?

If anything, this World Cup has been about up and down coaching performances more than anything else.

Not to mention disastrous decisions like the ones witnessed Wednesday night in Sao Paulo.

Dutch manager Louis van Gaal had been endlessly praised for his sideline brilliance throughout the tournament.

He orchestrated a 5-1 thrashing of Spain by outsmarting Spanish bench boss Vincente del Bosque, using a defence-first mentality and direct play to trash Spain's tiki-taka mentality.

Van Gaal also made the bold decision to bring on reserve netminder Tim Krul in a shootout win over Costa Rica.

Eventually, though, his luck ran out. Bringing off Robin van Persie against Argentina in extra time -- the Netherlands' third and final sub -- meant there was no room for Krul to come on for goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, who failed to make a save during penalties. The consequences were immense.

In this game we sometimes overlook the little decisions that influence outcomes.

Would the match have finished differently if van Gaal wouldn't have called on burly centre back Ron Vlaar to take his first penalty?

These are the decisions that have influenced outcomes at this tournament more than the players themselves.

Looking back, were the Dutch four goals better than Spain?

Based on results, "football giants" suffered two of the most humbling losses this tournament has ever seen.

In taking a closer look at the other semifinal, how can it be that Brazil conceded seven goals to Germany?

This was a Brazilian team that hadn't lost a competitive match at home in 39 years; A team that looked solid at the Confederations Cup no more than a year ago.

It's another reminder of how poor game management and preparation can doom some of the best sides in the world to embarrassing results.

Brazilian bench boss Luiz Felipe Scolari should have held up his hand at the conclusion of Tuesday's semifinal drubbing. Instead, he blamed his team, saying the result was an accumulation of shared responsibility.

But in sending out the hosts in a bizarre 4-2-4, it took less than 30 minutes for the Germans to systematically expose what turned into the butt-end of Brazilian jokes.

Scolari's four attackers -- Bernard, Oscar, Hulk and Fred -- weren't interested in doing anything other than score.

And when you have defenders like Marcelo, David Luiz and Maicon, all of which see themselves as play-makers, it didn't take long to figure out how badly Scolari got it wrong.

Maybe more telling was the fact Scolari didn't attempt to change things up until the half, when it was already too late.

Brazil's semifinal match was lost before the anthems were even sang.

If there's another explanation for a skillful Brazil team conceding seven times, I'd like to hear it.

It's as if Scolari arrogantly thought his defensive box -- his two centre backs and the two holding midfielders -- would be able to stand up against the German attack.

This World Cup has demonstrated that teams that stay organized will get chances the other way.

Just look at Costa Rica, a side fraught with defensive discipline along with two or three players who could hurt teams the other way.

It's how they nearly took down the Netherlands in an extra time thriller in the last eight.

It has been a tournament as much about managers setting their teams up to implode as it has been about goals.

The U.S., for instance, without goalkeeper Tim Howard never had a chance -- not after how head coach Jurgen Klinsmann set the Yanks up for a second-round battle with Belgium.

Klinsmann was completely outclassed by Belgian bench boss Marc Wilmots, whose decision to bring on Romelu Lukaku devastated the U.S. defence.

Klinsmann's reaction to seeing Lukaku enter? Absolutely nothing.

He watched as his defence got torn to bits in an extra time loss.

Maybe more than any prior edition, the 2014 World Cup has been about managers making big decisions that have gone a long way in determining the outcome of games.

It doesn't take a brilliant tactician to solve what went wrong for Brazil here Tuesday night. Or whether van Gaal made the right decision in wasting his final sub on his No. 9 with Krul chomping at the bit.

A World Cup manager's only job is to give his side a chance to advance.

It seems even some of the most highly-regarded sideline suits in the game fall short of expectation on the biggest stage.


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