Only a few former U17 World Cup head coaches have been successful in making an impact at the top level.
Success at the youth level does not always guarantee a clear and easy path at the latter stages, especially when it comes to a career at the club level or on the senior team. Such a tendency does not only apply to the players but also to the team managers.
In the history of the U17 World Cup, plenty of head coaches who achieved success in the tournament could not replicate it at the senior level. It goes without saying that winning the competition trophy does not guarantee further successes their career. They still have a lot to prove in professional football, both at the club level and on the international stage.
Take, for example, the winners of the last five U17 World Cup editions. The only name who manages to elevate his managerial career at the top level is Steve Cooper, the England U17 side boss in the 2017 edition. He is currently at the helm of Nottingham Forest, which he led to a Premier League return in 2022. Yet, the Welsh manager is still struggling to guide The Tricky Trees to midtable this season after being involved in the relegation battle in the 2022/23 campaign.
Meanwhile, the other winning managers barely make their mark on the senior sides. Raul Gutiérrez, the Mexico U17 head coach who lifted the country to a second trophy in the 2013 edition, is currently in Mexico’s second tier with UAT after unsuccessful spells at the top flights with Atlante and Cruz Azul.
Two Nigerian former managers who guided the Super Eagles to win the title consecutively, Manu Garba and Emmanual Amunike, are both without a team. As for Guillherme Dalla Dea, the last winning boss in Brazil in 2019, only works as the academy manager at Chinese second-tier club Guangzhou FC.
Nevertheless, there have always been some exceptions. These five managers are distinguished figures from the U17 World Cup who have been able to succeed at the senior level. One is even currently taking the spotlight in the Premier League this season.
The Australian manager has been all over the news lately after stealing the spotlight in the Premier League this season. He led Tottenham to the top of the table before a huge loss versus Chelsea in early November. Postecoglou was in charge of the Australian youth side for the U17 World Cup in the early 2000s.
His best result with the young Socceroos was reaching the quarterfinals in the 2001 edition. He also had a chance to be at the helm of the U20 team and the senior side. The Athens-born manager helped Tim Cahill and co qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup before snatching the AFC Asian Cup title in 2015.
Prior to his move to Spurs, he had already won six titles abroad, including one league title with J-League side Yokohama Marinos and two Scottish Premierships with Glasgow Celtic. Postecoglou is by far the most successful Australian manager in Premier League history.
The Argentine manager is the specialist on the international stage. He was the head coach of the Albiceleste youth team, which qualified for the 1995 and 1997 U17 World Cups. Pekerman brought them to finish fourth in Ecuador in 1995 but exited one stage earlier in the following edition. He had a more triumphant campaign in the U20 World Cup, as he won three titles in 1995, 1997, and 2001.
At senior level, the former Toluca and Tigres UANL boss was in charge of Argentina in the 2006 FIFA World Cup and Colombia in the 2014 and 2018 World Cup, respectively. Yet, his best result with them was only progressing to the quarterfinals, in 2006 and 2014. He was last in charge of the Venezuelan national team before resigning in March 2023.
He is the current Trabzonspor boss who succeeded in guiding the Turkey U17 team to the semi-finals in the 2005 U17 World Cup. They lost to the Netherlands in the third-place playoff. Avcı then moved to Istanbul Basaksehir, where he laid the foundation of the team before winning their first league title in 2020. He led them to finish second on the table in 2017 and 2019.
After a short stint in Beşiktaş in the 2019/20 campaign, the coach, who was at the helm of the Turkey national team within 2011–2013, switched sides to Trabzonspor and won three pieces silverware, including the league title in 2022, their first in 38 years.
He was in charge of the Scotland youth team in the 1989 FIFA U16 World Championships, the predecessor of the U17 World Cup. They reached the final before surprisingly losing to Saudi Arabia on penalties. The former Aberdeen and Motherwell boss also helped the Scotland senior side qualify for EURO 1996 and World Cup 1998. The latter was the Tartan Army’s last appearance in the FIFA World Cup. Brown passed away in June 2023, 10 years after his retirement.
The Portuguese gaffer is one of the few managers who led his country’s national team to the World Cup at all levels. He guided the youth side to third place in the 1989 U17 World Cup. In the same year, Queiroz also helped them clinch the U20 World Cup title, which they defended in the 1991 edition. Meanwhile, in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, he led Cristiano Ronaldo and co in the final round but suffered a narrow defeat against Spain in the last 16.
Furthermore, the former assistant of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United back in the early 2000s brought South Africa the 2002 World Cup and Iran to the 2014, and 2018 World Cups, before being rehired by Melli for Qatar 2022. The current Qatar boss, however, failed while taking charge of Real Madrid in the 2003–04 season, and was unable to guide Egypt to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.