Eight years after Brazil beat Italy to claim top honours at the World Cup 1970, the two sides met again in the “small final” of 1978. From a team etched into history only one player, Rivellino, was left. Italy too, had seen a generational shift with a golden future looming on the horizon. It is a testament to both footballing nations that even while re-building, they could still be considering two of the top four sides in the world.
Overseeing their respective country’s efforts in Argentina were Enzo Bearzot and Claudio Coutinho. During their playing days the coaches had earned one cap between them. Bearzot had featured for the Azzurri in a 1955 defeat to Hungary. After hanging up his boots, Bearzot learnt the managerial craft under Nereo Rocco at Torino, would take charge of Italy’s Under 23 side and assist Ferruccio Valcareggi’s coaching staff at the World Cup 1974. Soon after Italy’s dismal showing in West Germany Bearzot got the nod to select and prepare the Squadra for Argentina.
Brazil under Cláudio Coutinho
While Bearzot, for nearly two decades, had donned the jerseys of such notable clubs as Inter, Torino, and Catania, Cláudio Coutinho’s resume read much different. For one, he lacked the playing background. Coutinho was more theoretician than practitioner, having graduated from the Brazilian Army’s School of Physical Education. In the lead up to the World Cup 1970 he was tasked to oversee the conditioning and fitness training of the Brazilian team. Several appointments in Peru and France followed, until, in 1976, Flamengo offered him the first opportunity to cut his teeth as a head coach.
When Admiral Heleno Nunes, in his position as President of the Brazilian Football Confederation, was in need of a replacement for Osvaldo Brandão, Coutinho provided the perfect blend of military background and coaching knowledge. Continue reading