FOX Soccer Exclusive
Vucetich gets chance to fulfill hope
Victor Manuel Vucetich received the opportunity of a lifetime three years ago. Mexico needed a new coach. Both club executives and Mexican Football Federation officials wanted him to lead El Tri through the qualifying process for the 2014 World Cup.
He turned them down.
There is, of course, more to the story, and more to tell about why the man now tasked to rescue Mexico's World Cup hopes with two matches to play once decided to remain in Monterrey instead. Vucetich considered the job carefully and listened to the widespread calls for his appointment -- but he did not leap into it. He weighed the potential impact on his family and then opted to turn down the job instead.
“The family aspect is not an issue that changes overnight and I've always said I work for the family," Vucetich told The Associated Press after making his decision. “You are required to spend a long time with the national team and that would be complicated for me.
“I'm conscious that it was a great opportunity, but I don't want to wake up tomorrow and regret anything where my children are concerned ... there are more important things for me and my priority right now is them and that's why I took this decision.”
Vucetich's pragmatism -- as evidenced by his desire to reassess those priorities shortly after José Manuel de la Torre's departure -- and his own exit from Monterrey -- to seize control the second time he was asked will serve him well as he approaches the most important week of his long and successful career.
The 13 titles he won as a club coach earned him the gig, but they matter little now. His dearth of control over a situation -- created primarily by the failures of others -- will provide little cover if El Tri misses out on the World Cup for the first time since 1990. "King Midas" must display his golden touch yet again against Panama and Costa Rica to preserve his legacy and save his country.
“It's the most important challenge of my career, without a doubt,” Vucetich told reporters upon his appointment.
The 58-year-old spent much of the past month trying to instill his operating principles upon a group with little confidence, direction or discipline. The gravity of the predicament mandates a quick renovation rather than a full-scale rebuild. His alterations -- more emphasis on experience to produce immediate results and a widely expressed commitment to repair the frayed collective psyche, for instance -- highlight his understanding of situation at hand and reflect the need to impose a more coherent and less predictable tactical plan for his new charges.
Vucetich adjusts his approach from game-to-game and from minute-to-minute. He isn't devoted to one style or one system of play. He molds his formation and his team selection to fit the opposition and function effectively within it. His ability to impart those instructions to his players before and revise them during a match creates dexterity for his sides and presents avenues to victory in just about any set of circumstances.
Those underpinnings yield significant success in fraught situations. Vucetich has fallen at the final hurdle just once in his 23-year coaching career, a remarkable record attributable to both the players at his disposal and his guidance of them. The methods change -- a massive comeback here, a rampant performance there and a gritty performance just about everywhere -- without influencing the eventual outcome.
Mexico craves the success Vucetich usually supplies. He is the right man for the job at the right time. His players will take the field with an improved knowledge of the expectations set forth and with a better chance to amend their approach if required. There is nothing left to chance, no scenario left undiscovered. The extensive and pliable groundwork laid presents the best possible platform for the players to perform.
Vucetich's desire to provide those foundations reflects his willingness to revise his previous decisions for the greater good. He now stands squarely upon a daunting precipice, poised on the edge between failure and success. He passed on the chance to assume this position once before. Fate presented him with another opportunity to fulfill the life-changing post he once spurned. It is one he must grasp with both hands to prevent calamity and validate his choices then and now.