Weiss and Bradley families join select group in World Cup history
Slovakia's Vladimir Weiss made history against New Zealand
The U.S. duo of Bob and Michael Bradley also joined the select group
The first World Cup father-son pair was Uruguay's Ondino and Milton Viera in '66
On Tuesday, when Slovakia faced New Zealand in Rustenburg, midfielder Vladimir Weiss became the fifth player to be selected in the lineup at a World Cup by a coach who happens to be his father. He is already one of six players to have been included in squads by their fathers, and as Weiss the elder, who is also called Vladimir, admitted, for all his pride in his son's achievements it places both in an awkward position.
"He's not an easy player to coach," Weiss said, "but of course it's beautiful for him to have a coach as a father and for me to have him as a player. My son is a very clever boy who can play football. It's not easy for him because the coach is his father, but I believe he will play well here."
Vladimir Weiss is himself the son of a Vladimir Weiss who played international football, his father having turned out for Czechoslovakia as it won silver at the 1964 Olympic Games. He then represented Czechoslovakia at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, coming off the bench in the wins over Austria and the USA, and playing from the start in the 2-0 defeat to the hosts. He spoke on Monday of how the design of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium stirred memories of the Artemio Franchi in Florence, where he made his two substitute appearances, and spoke of the World Cup being the peak of the career of either player or manager.
He clearly anticipated the question about picking his son, and while his words were measured, his delight that his son has followed in the family tradition was obvious. Few, anyway, would dispute that Weiss the younger is, at 20, a wide midfielder of great promise, and worth his place in the national setup. Chances may have been limited for him at Manchester City, but he impressed in a loan spell at Bolton Wanderers last season, showing a quality of touch and a crossing ability to suggest he may exceed his father's total of 31 caps for Czechoslovakia and Slovakia. With nine, he has already eclipsed the three his grandfather managed.
The Weisses should beware, though, for past father and son combinations have rarely worked out well at World Cups in the past:
The first father to pick his son in a World Cup was Ondino Viera. A player of no great repute, he became coach of Nacional of Uruguay and the Brazilian club Vasco da Gama, where he introduced the famous diagonal sash on their shirts. He took the Uruguay national job in 1965, and selected his son Milton at center half for Uruguay's first three games of the 1966 World Cup as it edged through the group stage conceding just one goal. Without him in the quarterfinal, though, Uruguay had two men sent off and lost 4-0 to West Germany.
Nobody quibbled when Cesare Maldini, having been appointed manager of Italy in 1996, continued picking his son Paolo at left back. Paolo was without question the finest left back in Italy, arguably the world -- and continued to be so for several years - but there was no thought either that he had got his father the job given Cesare's three world titles as coach of Italy's Under-21 side. Cesare made Paolo captain, and he responded by setting up the Azzurri's first goal in the 1998 World Cup.
That was not a happy tournament for Italy, though, and it went out to France on penalties in the quarterfinal, the third time Paolo Maldini had been eliminated from a World Cup by that method.
Croatia was awful at the 2006 World Cup. It wasn't just that it went out in the group stage having failed to win a game; it was the manner in which it underperformed. It was brutish and physical, impossibly far from the imaginative creativity of legend. The resentment had to find a focus, and it homed in on Niko Kranjcar, the designated playmaker. He had a poor tournament, but was a victim of Croatia's insistence on playing its traditional 3-4-1-2 shape; to accommodate a playmaker, Zlatko had to use two holding midfield players, and that meant Croatia essentially lined up with seven men behind the ball.
Niko, anyway, was a useful scapegoat, having alienated half the nation by leaving Dinamo Zagreb for its arch-rival Hajduk Split midway through 2004-05, and then the other half by playing badly for his new club. Joining Portsmouth after the tournament came as a welcome release.
At least all the other sons got a game. Not poor Dusan Petkovic, though. Serbia-Montenegro had qualified impressively for the 2006 World Cup, conceding a single goal in ten qualifiers, but things began to go wrong when, Mirko Vucinic, coincidentally the only Montenegrin outfielder in the squad, withdrew shortly before the tournament with a back injury. Given Serbia and Montenegro had just formally split, many suggested -- without any foundation - his absence was politically motivated. Petkovic then called up his son, a modest defender with OFK Belgrade, to replace him, leading to accusations of nepotism. Why, after all, replace a forward with a left-back? So great was the outcry that Dusan left the squad, leaving Serbia-Montenegro with 22 players.
Ivica Dragutinovic was promptly injured, and without a recognized replacement left back in the squad, Ilija was forced to change tactics. Serbia-Montenegro lost all three games.
Michael won his first caps before his father took charge of the national team in 2006, but it is under Bob that he has really established himself. If there were suspicions of nepotism at the start, they have surely gone now. Michael played a key role in the U.S. team's run to the final of last summer's Confederations Cup, and has established himself in both the Dutch Eredivisie and the German Bundelsliga (where he currently plays for Borussia M'Gladbach). Bradley was excellent in preventing Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard take charge of midfield in Saturday's 1-1 draw against England.
Jonathan Wilson is the author of Inverting the Pyramid, Behind the Curtain, Sunderland: A Club Transformed and The Anatomy of England.