JOHANNESBURG, July 9 – At first look, World Cup final coaches Bert van Marwijk and Vicente Del Bosque could not seem more different and yet a closer inspection reveals a lot of similarities.
Van Marwijk is slick, arrogant and at times outspoken while Del Bosque is dour, quiet and almost introverted.
And yet when it comes to matters on the pitch they have one very common trait, they take a back seat and let the players be the stars.
While the extrovert Diego Maradona sits at home pondering his future as Argentina boss, he would do well to take a leaf out of the books of the two coaches contesting the World Cup final.
Maradona was like a circus act in South Africa, dominating the headlines and being the star of the Argentine show.
Van Marwijk and Del Bosque have let their players be the stars and it is those players who have shone the most.
While Maradona was a controversial and brilliant player who lifted the World Cup, both Van Marwijk and Del Bosque were merely very good players.
They both played for their country and both played the majority of their careers in their own country’s top flight.
Del Bosque was a rugged defender with Real Madrid, van Marwijk was a decent midfielder who earnt a single cap for Holland.
And although the Spaniard’s career both as player and coach outshines Van Marwijk’s, they both came from humble beginnings.
Del Bosque started out in Real Madrid’s reserves, both as a player and as a coach, while he also coached the club’s youth team.
But as a one-club man he eventually in each case rose through the ranks to reach the first team.
As a player he won five league titles and four Spanish cups while earning 18 caps and a place in Spain’s unsuccessful 1980 European Championships squad.
All in all he spent almost 40 years at Real, from 1964 until he left in 2003 following a startling four years as first-team coach.
Del Bosque’s reign saw him take charge at the height of the Galacticos era when he blended talents such as Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Roberto Carlos and Luis Figo into a competitive and winning unit that claimed two Champions League and two La Liga crowns.
He did so well because he didn’t clash with the bloated egos of his players but despite his success, his reserved personality didn’t sit well with the Real hierarchy that craved a big name and bigger personality.
Real have not won the Champions League since he left in 2003, and in fact they have not even got past the second round in six years.
Van Marwijk has not enjoyed anything like the same success, as player or coach.
His defining moments as a player were a cup win with AZ Alkmaar and a second division title with MVV Maastricht, as well as his one cap.
He too then started his career coaching youth teams but whereas Del Bosque got his first team chance at Real, Van Marwijk had to work his way through the lower ranks until he took Fortuna Sittard to the cup final, bringing him to the attentions of Feyenoord.
A UEFA Cup win with the Rotterdam giants proved he could win things and a few years later he was appointed the coach of German giants Borussia Dortmund.
But just like Del Bosque, foreign shores were not kind to Van Marwijk who left after two and half years of mid-table mediocrity.
Del Bosque’s foreign experiment was even shorter as he lasted less than a full season in Turkey with Besiktas.
And maybe it is those failures that have conditioned the pair because neither has been counting his chickens despite reaching the final.
"Of course we must celebrate this victory but we will do so with moderation," said Del Bosque after Spain’s semi-final win.
"We will not be blinded by success. We cannot start bragging or get too conceited yet."
Van Marwijk expressed a similar tone after their defeat of Uruguay put them in their first final since 1978: "It is quite something we have achieved after 32 years, but we are not there yet and there is one more match to look forward to."
And while neither will likely be hogging the headlines in Monday’s newspapers, it is just such humility that will see one of them guide his team to the summit of world football come Sunday night.