Kuala Lumpur: They are Asian football’s great managers, motivators and masterminds.
In the 64-year history of the tournament, only 16 men have won the AFC Asian Cup as a head coach, with countless other talented tacticians trying, and failing, to get their hands on Asian football’s greatest prize.
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Join us as we examine the successes of 10 of Asia’s all-time coaching greats, and help us to celebrate their respective AFC Asian Cup successes by voting your favourite.
Here are our nominees:
Khalil Al Zayani – KSA
Winner: 1984 (Saudi Arabia)
The Saudi national team’s first ever Saudi head coach, Al Zayani led the Green Falcons at their maiden Continental Finals in Singapore in 1984, and they duly become the first debutants to win the title since Islamic Republic of Iran 16 years earlier.
An unbeaten group stage campaign, which included a 1-0 win over defending champions Kuwait, saw Saudi Arabia through to the knockout stage, where they ultimately claimed the title with a 2-0 win over China PR.
Al Zayani took charge of Saudi Arabia’s 1984 Olympic Games campaign, and also enjoyed success at club level, particularly with hometown side Al Ettifaq.
Mohammad Ranjbar - IRN
Winner: 1972 (IR Iran)
Crowned champions at home under Mahmoud Bayati in 1968, Islamic Republic of Iran defended their title in Thailand four years later, making Ranjbar the first and only Iranian boss to win the AFC Asian Cup on foreign soil.
Ranjbar’s charges prevailed in a dramatic final against Korea Republic, with tournament standouts Hossein Kalani and Ali Jabbari both scoring in a match that finished 2-1 after extra-time.
That result gave Team Melli a perfect winning record in the tournament, and their tally of five wins has never been matched by an Iranian side at an AFC Asian Cup.
Heshmat Mohajerani – IRN
Winner: 1976 (IR Iran), Group stage 1980 (UAE)
While Ranjbar’s side won every game in 1972, the team led by Heshmat Mohajerani won all of their four matches without conceding a single goal during their success on home soil four years later.
Their 1-0 defeat of Kuwait in the final – played before 100,000 spectators in Tehran – made them the only nation in tournament history to win the title on three consecutive occasions, but it was just one of many landmark achievements under Mohajerani.
He also took them to an unprecedented quarter-final appearance at the 1976 Olympics and led them to their first FIFA World Cup in 1978, before guiding the United Arab Emirates during their first AFC Asian Cup appearance two years later.
Carlos Alberto Parreira – BRA
Winner: 1980 (Kuwait), Winner: 1988 (Saudi Arabia)
One of international football’s all-time coaching greats, Carlos Alberto Parreira is the only man to win the AFC Asian Cup with two different countries, leading Kuwait to glory in 1980, before repeating the success with Saudi Arabia eight years later.
His Kuwait outfit ended IR Iran’s golden run with a 2-1 semi-final win, before beating Korea Republic 3-0 in the final in Kuwait City, then oversaw Saudi Arabia’s penalty shootout victory against the same opponents in the 1988 decider in Doha.
A true icon of the global game, Parreira would ultimately guide a record-equalling five different nations – including three from Asia - to the FIFA World Cup Finals, a tournament he won as Brazil head coach in 1994.
Ange Postecoglou – AUS
Winner: 2015 (Australia)
Having won just one of 11 matches in 2014, Ange Postecoglou came into the 2015 AFC Asian Cup on home soil with much to prove, but he would end the tournament as the architect of one of Australia’s greatest footballing achievements.
With consistent success in the Australian club game under his belt, Postecoglou’s uniquely assertive playing style saw 10 different Socceroos get on the scoresheet during the competition, culminating in a thrilling 2-1 extra-time win over Korea Republic in the final at a packed Stadium Australia.
Postecoglou oversaw Australia’s successful 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, only to resign before the tournament itself, but he has continued his stellar career with Yokohama F Marinos, who became surprise J1 League champions last season.
Zico – BRA
Winner: 2004 (Japan)
A decade after the conclusion of his remarkable playing career, the 2004 AFC Asian Cup provided a major coaching success for Brazil’s Arthur Antunes Coimbra – known to millions around the world as Zico.
Japan’s victory in the 2004 tournament - their third Asian title in four attempts since 1992 – was confirmed with a 3-1 win over hosts China PR in a tense final in Beijing,
Zico would manage Japan at the FIFA World Cup in Germany two years later, and has since worked throughout Asia with stints in Uzbekistan, Iraq, Qatar and India.
Félix Sánchez – ESP
Winner: 2019 (Qatar)
Few observers pencilled Qatar in as pre-tournament favourites for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, but the Félix Sánchez-led side produced a superb month of football to claim a dominant maiden title in the United Arab Emirates.
In the first ever 24-team AFC Asian Cup, the Qataris were untouchable - winning all seven of their matches, scoring 19 goals and conceding just one as Almoez Ali and Akram Afif dazzled the Continent with a series of brilliant performances.
With Asian glory achieved, Sánchez is now tasked with leading Qatar at their first FIFA World Cup, which the West Asian will host in 2022.
Philippe Troussier – FRA
Winner: 2000 (Japan), Group stage: 2004 (Qatar)
Appointed in 1998 after nearly a decade coaching in Africa, Frenchman Philippe Troussier led a swashbuckling Japan side to a second AFC Asian Cup title in Lebanon in 2000,
The Samurai Blue scored 21 goals in just six matches, inflicting heavy losses on Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Iraq, before defeating the defending champion Saudis once again in the final in Beirut.
Troussier went on to lead Japan to the Round of 16 at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, before overseeing Qatar’s group stage elimination at the 2004 AFC Asian Cup in China.
Jorvan Vieira – BRA
Winner: 2007 (Iraq)
Vieira was the architect of one of the greatest triumphs in the history of the Asian game when he led Iraq to an extraordinary AFC Asian Cup win in Southeast Asia in 2007.
Deeply experienced in Asian and North African football, Vieira masterminded wins over highly-ranked opponents Australia and Korea Republic, before Younis Mahmoud’s goal against Saudi Arabia sealed a history-making 1-0 win in the final in Jakarta.
Iraq’s win came just two months after Vieira’s appointment as head coach, adding another layer to a remarkable football story.
Alberto Zaccheroni – ITA
Winner: 2011 (Japan), Semi-finalist: 2019 (UAE)
A Serie A winner with AC Milan in 1999, Alberto Zaccheroni became the first Italian coach to win the AFC Asian Cup when his Japan side lifted the trophy for a record fourth time in Qatar in 2011.
The title was achieved with a 1-0 extra-time win over Australia in Doha, with Tadanari Lee’s 109th-minute goal providing decisive.
Zaccheroni led Japan to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and he came close to reaching another Asian Cup decider in 2019, with his United Arab Emirates outfit reaching the semi-finals on home soil.
Poll is now closed.
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