Zi­dane, Kem­pes in agree­ment: best to face tough­est tests early

World Cup le­gends say it’s cru­cial to build mo­men­tum from the start

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By REUTERS in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil

The key to a suc­cess­ful World Cup cam­paign is to start off against tougher op­po­nents rather than eas­ier ones, World Cup win­ners Mario Kem­pes of Ar­gentina and Zine­dine Zi­dane of France both agreed on Thurs­day.

“From the be­gin­ning of a World Cup, you have to have the right mind­set and you can’t feel like it’s best to play against the small teams first,” Zi­dane told re­porters on the eve of the draw for the 2014 edi­tion in Brazil.

“It’s best to start against the stronger teams be­cause the chal­lenge is so tough, you may as well start against the best.”

Kem­pes, still with a mass of thick hair but with­out the mous­tache he fa­mously sported in the 1978 World Cup in Ar­gentina, agreed and said he was de­lighted the fi­nals were back in South Amer­ica for the first time since his na­tion’s tri­umph.

“We can prove that we can or­ga­nize a great fi­nals here as they do in Europe,” he said.

“It is an ex­tra­or­di­nary op­por­tu­nity for us and can move South Amer­i­can foot­ball in the right di­rec­tion.

“I agree with what Zine­dine said: the best thing is to start against the strong­est teams be­cause that way you can’t rest on your laurels.

“If you start by think­ing that some teams are eas­ier than oth­ers, that is not the best way to pre­pare.

“I think Ar­gentina has three good op­tions to win the World Cup. We have a good team with an ex­cel­lent coach and Lionel Messi, the best player in the world. Ev­ery­thing is set up for us to be suc­cess­ful.”

Kem­pes scored twice when Ar­gentina beat the Nether­lands 3- 1 in the 1978 fi­nal and Zi­dane did the same when France beat Brazil 3-0 in 1998 to lift the tro­phy, again at home.

They were among eight for­mer play­ers on a panel rep­re­sent­ing the eight World Cup-win­ning coun­tries at a press event in Brazil.

Lothar Matthaeus, who cap­tained West Ger­many when they won the 1990 World Cup, reck­oned the cur­rent Ger­man side is good enough to be­come the first Euro­pean team to lift the World Cup in South Amer­ica.

“If the team plays at the same level it has been play­ing at lately, it has to be counted as one of the fa­vorites. They have shown the high­est stan­dard and I hope that af­ter 24 years they can win it and I be­lieve they can,” Matthaeus said.

For­mi­da­ble op­po­nent

But Ge­off Hurst, the only man to score a hat-trick in a fi­nal when Eng­land won in 1966, said Euro­pean teams would strug­gle to win the tour­na­ment but had to ar­rive be­liev­ing they could.

“Who­ever is go­ing to win the World Cup is go­ing to have to beat Brazil in Brazil, and they are a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent in their own coun­try,” he said.

“I think Eng­land and the oth­ers have to come with a win­ning mind­set, but they have to be re­al­is­tic. There have been six World Cups in Latin Amer­ica and no Euro­pean team has won any of them.”

Among the eight pan­el­lists was 86-year-old Al­cides Ghig­gia, who like Zi­dane played and won against Brazil in a World Cup fi­nal.

Ghig­gia is the last sur­viv­ing mem­ber of the Uruguay team that lifted the World Cup in 1950 af­ter they beat Brazil 2- 1 at the Mara­cana in Rio de Janeiro. His win­ning goal plunged Brazil into de­spair.

“I would like noth­ing more than another Brazil vs Uruguay fi­nal and for Uruguay to win it again,” he said. “But I am very wel­come in Brazil, they wel­come me with open arms. It is like a sec­ond home to me.”

For that to hap­pen though, world cham­pion Spain would have to be elim­i­nated along the way and Fer­nando Hierro was not sure that would hap­pen.

“Ev­ery team reaches a high point and a low point in its soc­cer his­tory and right now, Spain is on a high with a great team and great play­ers. I have ev­ery hope we can win the World Cup again,” said the 45- year- old for­mer Spain de­fender.

“We also flew in the face of his­tory last time. We lost our first match and still be­came cham­pi­ons. This time we don’t want to lose at all.”

SER­GIO MO­RAES / RUETERS

Zine­dine Zi­dane, who starred for France in the 1998 World Cup, ad­dresses the me­dia ahead of the 2014 World Cup draw at Costa do Sauipe re­sort in Brazil on Thurs­day.

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