The vast majority of countries competing in the second phase of the African zone preliminaries for the FIFA World Cup™ have been doing so with new coaches, all of whom have been thrown in at the proverbial deep end.
More than 30 of the 47 teams seeking to advance to the final group phase later this year went into their campaign with a new face at the helm, while four countries have already made changes during the campaign and three more are due next month. Another statistic worth noting is that almost half of the teams have an indigenous coach in place, which will come as great comfort for a growing lobby of pundits pressing for better opportunities for African coaches at full international coaching level.
Three nations, meanwhile - Libya, Mali and Swaziland - have employed coaches from other African countries, and there is also a predictably large foreign influence too. Seven French coaches, five Brazilians and three Dutchmen are joined in African battle with coaches from Croatia, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Bosnia, Serbia and Hungary.
The first change in the qualifying campaign came in Botswana, where Englishman Colwyn Rowe was fired after their first Group 7 game, a goalless home draw with Madagascar, and replaced by Stanley Tshoane, a local army officer. In the time since, there have also been changes in the dugout for Benin, Mauritania and, this week Madagascar, where Franck Rajaonarisamba made his debut in Maputo against Mozambique last weekend.
Next month Roger Lemerre will move from Tunisia to Morocco, where he will take charge of their last two Group 8 qualifiers in September and October. His place is being taken by Humberto Coelho, who is ironically a former coach of Morocco. The 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifiers Ghana have also announced their intention to hire a high profile coach in the forthcoming weeks, having already had talks with former German international Guido Buchwald.
In the weeks before the qualifiers started rated on 31 May, there was an almighty scramble to find a coach among some top sides, notably Côte d'Ivoire, Congo DR, Nigeria, Zambia and 2010 hosts South Africa. It has been a particularly tough baptism for Vahid Halilhodzic whose Ivorians have been depleted by injuries and absentees for their first four matches, and a similar situation has affected Patrice Neveu in his new job in charge of the Leopards of Congo DR.
Nigerian coach Shaibu Amodu walked back into a job he had previously held on several occasions and the seamless transition from German Berti Vogts has given the Super Eagles an unblemished start. But pity poor Joel Santana, the Brazilian who replaced compatriot Carlos Alberto Parreira in charge of South Africa's Bafana Bafana. His first match was a tough tussle with the Nigerians away in Abuja, and he has found the going little easier since.
The job doesn't seem so tough, however, for Paulo Duarte, who has been lauded for the way he has guided Burkina Faso thus far, nor indeed for Branko Tukac, who has led unfancied Rwanda to a 100 per cent start.