COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil – The World Cup promises friendly reunions and old scores to settle — and that's just among the coaches.
Almost half the 32 World Cup nations are set to land in Brazil next June with a foreign coach. Experience suggests there will be hirings and firings in the months ahead, but Friday's draw could offer intriguing matchups, with coaches taking center stage from their players.
JURGEN VS GERMANS
A United States vs. Germany match would surely be dominated by Jurgen Klinsmann.
A talismanic World Cup-winning forward for West Germany in 1990 and an innovative coach who guided host Germany beyond most people's expectations to a semifinal exit in 2006.
Back then, Klinsmann was assisted by Joachim Loew as the national team kindled what amounted to a love-in for German soccer and society. Loew succeeded Klinsmann, remains in charge and is under greater pressure than ever to end a trophy drought stretching back to the 1996 European Championship team. Captained by Klinsmann, of course.
On Friday, Klinsmann's U.S. team figures as a tough option in the weakest pot, containing four CONCACAF and four Asian confederation teams.
Even without the weight of Klinsmann's personal history, Germany might want to avoid the Americans.
Unlike Klinsmann vs. Germany, a match between Carlos Queiroz's Iran and Portugal would have a hint of score settling.
Queiroz coached his home country through an underachieving 2010 World Cup despite a 7-0 rout of North Korea. He was quickly fired once European Championship qualifiers began that September.
Thrashing North Korea masked some major Portuguese failings. They failed to score in three other matches — against Ivory Coast, Brazil and a testy 1-0 second-round loss to eventual champion Spain. Cristiano Ronaldo left South Africa as an unfulfilled star.
2010 was not a happy time for Queiroz. He was even temporarily barred from seeking work in Portugal while successfully appealing a ban for being rude and obstructive to a doping samples collection team just before the World Cup.
The former Real Madrid coach and assistant to Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson resurfaced — and has flourished — in Tehran.
On Queiroz's watch, Iran won its final Asian qualifying group, helping eliminate Qatar, has advanced to the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia and is the top Asian team in FIFA's rankings.
Vahid Halilhodzic and Algeria have unfinished business from a 2010 World Cup that was unsatisfactory for both.
Like his native Bosnia-Herzegovina, Halilhodzic the coach is set to make his World Cup debut in Brazil, if belatedly.
Four years ago, he guided Ivory Coast through qualification but was fired four months before going to South Africa. Halilhodzic was held responsible after his Didier Drogba-led team exited the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals. Sven-Goran Eriksson was hired to replace him.
Algeria did go to the tournament though viewers worldwide perhaps wished they had not. The Desert Foxes were, if not the worst team in South Africa, perhaps the most unwatchable. Failing to score in three matches, Algeria's presence was memorable only for conceding Landon Donovan's stoppage time goal that ensured the United States won the group ahead of England.
Halilhodzic, a member of Yugoslavia's 1982 squad, can surely only improve Algeria's image.
Three Colombians currently coach World Cup qualifiers, though not their own national team, which is led by an Argentine, Jose Pekerman.
Two of the trio are with CONCACAF member countries and so can be drawn into seeded Colombia's group: Jorge Luis Pinto-coached Costa Rica and Luis Fernando Suarez's Honduras.
Suarez has already impressed on the big stage, guiding Honduras past Spain as it went unbeaten through its group at the 2012 London Olympics. Honduras even led star-studded Brazil in the quarterfinals before losing 3-2 with two players sent off.
Earlier, Suarez overachieved with an Ecuador team that reached the last 16 at the 2006 World Cup.
In a neat twist, Ecuador's coach, Reinaldo Rueda, is also Colombian and previously took Honduras to the 2010 World Cup.
A potential Ecuador vs. Honduras group-stage game would be a familiar affair.
JAPAN'S A to Z
Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni was an unusual choice to coach Japan after the 2010 World Cup. Then again, Japan seems to have a fondness for the letter 'Z' after Brazilian great Zico led the team at the 2006 World Cup.
Still, after being fired by both Milan giants, Juventus and Torino, plus Lazio, few could blame Zaccheroni for heading to Asia for work instead of adding to his Serie A dismissals.
The move quickly paid off with a 2011 Asian Cup title, the honor of being the first country to qualify for the World Cup in June 2012, and some spirited displays, though frustrating losses, at the Confederations Cup in June.
Zaccheroni still needs to convert European know-how into consistent results. Losses against Belarus and Serbia in October put the coach under rare pressure from Japanese media. But a rematch with Italy — after Japan's 4-3 Confed loss — would be an attractive option next June.