New Head Coaches And A Fresh Start For World Cup Sides In March 2023 International Break

When planning his first national team squad in six years, new South Korean head coach Jurgen Klinsmann kept things simple.

He made just one unenforced change to the Korean squad that reached the knockout rounds in Qatar 2022, electing to see what he has to work with before trying to scout new players from a new league.

South Korea are one of 13 sides at the Qatar 2022 World Cup that have since changed their head coach, and one of the few sides not to do so based on poor results.

Elsewhere in Asia, Qatar decided to part ways with Felix Sanchez Bas, and replace him with former Iran boss Carlos Queiroz. It was almost a straight swap, Sanchez Bas was reportedly close to joining Iran as Queiroz’s replacement but in the end opted to become Ecuador’s new boss, leaving Iran to appoint local coach Amir Ghalenoei, who had previously managed the country in 2007.

Over in Europe, the managerial merry-go-round saw Belgium’s head coach at the World Cup, Roberto Martinez, join Portugal, and Portugal’s head coach, Fernando Santos, join Poland.

Martinez has opted not to shake up the Portugal side just yet, keeping almost all of the World Cup players in his first squad, including Cristiano Ronaldo, who he calls “an important figure for the team”. Martinez did select a large number of central defenders though, which could suggest he is thinking of using a back-three with Portugal as he often did with Belgium.

His replacement in Belgium, Domenico Tedesco, has slowly started the job of replacing their so-called “golden generation”. Toby Alderweireld, Eden Hazard and Simon Mignolet all retired after the World Cup and Tedesco didn’t select other veterans Axel Witsel, Dries Mertens or Michy Batshuayi. Instead, the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifiers could be a chance to see a new Belgium squad in action, with players like Wout Faes and Romeo Lavia trying to break into the side. Tedesco still picked 35-year-old Jan Vertonghen though and said that “we just decided for this camp to see some new faces.”

Spain also brought in a new head coach, replacing Luis Enrique with former under-20 coach Luis de la Fuente. He won gold at the Olympics in Tokyo 2020, but despite knowing Spain’s youth players very well, two of de la Fuente’s new callups are 29-year-old David Garcia from Osasuna and 32-year-old Joselu from Espanyol. He also recalled Iago Aspas and Nacho Fernandez, making wholesale changes to a Spain side that failed to reach the World Cup quarterfinals.

With European sides straight into their qualification matches for UEFA Euro 2024, these new coaches will need to hit the ground running.

The March 2023 international break is somewhat less important for sides in North and South America, which might explain why the USA, Uruguay and Brazil all have appointed their under-20 coaches as interim head coaches.

Thierry Henry and recently sacked Crystal Palace head coach Patrick Vieira are two of the names that have been linked to the USA head coach job, but for the upcoming CONCACAF Nations League games, U-20 coach Anthony Hudson is in the dugout. The USA qualify automatically for United 2026, so Hudson has the opportunity to select a young squad (with the exception of 35-year-old Tim Ream) for the matches against Grenada and El Salvador.

Mexico’s new head coach Diego Cocca is also using this international break as a chance to refresh his squad with veterans Rogelio Funes Mori, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera not making the list.

Brazil’s Ramon Menezes has selected nine local players for their friendly against Morocco, while Uruguay’s Marcelo Broli will be without Luis Suarez, Edison Cavani and Darwin Nunez, and could field six debutants in the games against Japan and South Korea.

Many of the African teams at the World Cup headed to Qatar 2022 with relatively new head coaches, so its perhaps not surprising that Ghana are the only African side at Qatar to make a change, and even that change was the fairly predictable move to bring sporting director and ex-Premier League head coach Chris Hughton back into the dugout.

These 13 new head coaches may have three-and-a-half years to prepare for United 2026, but with national team bosses getting such limited time with their players, every international break counts, even if only friendly matches are scheduled.

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