“We won’t be tourists in Rus­sia”

Por­tu­gal’s Euro-win­ning coach re­flects on the up­com­ing Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup

World Soccer - - The World -

How im­por­tant is the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup?

It is a meet­ing of the con­ti­nen­tal cham­pi­ons. There will be three Euro­pean teams and the other con­fed­er­a­tions will each have one rep­re­sen­ta­tive. This is what is go­ing to hap­pen; for th­ese teams it is go­ing to be cum­ber­some.

Joachim Low didn’t only crit­i­cise the cal­en­dar, but also the ex­pan­sion to a 48-team World Cup...

I also think that the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup is too quick a com­pe­ti­tion. You have three games in seven days. That is different from the World Cup and the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship, where you have a first round and then the knock-out phase. The sched­ul­ing is different. Be­fore a World Cup and a Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship you don’t have com­pet­i­tive matches. You have suf­fi­cient time to pre­pare and for the play­ers to re­cover phys­i­cally and men­tally. Six, seven days be­fore the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup teams will par­tic­i­pate in very im­por­tant matches that will have a bear­ing on World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion. That is an­other dif­fi­culty, a dis­tinct com­pli­ca­tion. It’s an is­sue for the fu­ture: teams par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup should per­haps not have to play of­fi­cial matches be­fore the tour­na­ment. In truth, it re­ally com­pli­cates our work. The ex­pan­sion to 48 teams won’t force teams to play more matches to reach the fi­nal. The re­cu­per­a­tion time be­tween games will re­main the same. I have noth­ing to crit­i­cise. Those two con­sid­er­a­tions are essen­tial: the World Cup won’t have more games [per team] and the teams will en­joy the same in­ter­val be­tween matches.

The Ger­man coach has se­lected a young and ex­per­i­men­tal squad for the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup. What are your thoughts?

Ex­per­i­men­tal? He is fan­tas­tic coach and I don’t think this is an ex­per­i­men­tal squad. There are, of course, a num­ber of play­ers that we are used to see­ing more, but Ger­many has al­ways been like this. They have al­ways had very strong squads in which­ever com­pe­ti­tion and they al­ways en­ter tour­na­ments to win.

Have Por­tu­gal got a favourable draw at the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup?

There is no such thing as a favourable group. At the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship, Por­tu­gal was also sup­pos­edly in a favourable group. I al­ways said no. Aus­tria was among the 10 best-ranked teams in the world. Hun­gary was a dan­ger­ous team. Ice­land was a dif­fi­cult op­po­nent. A sim­ple read­ing of the num­bers and the rank­ings of­ten dis­torts re­al­ity. Rus­sia, who play at home, are the favourites in this group. They are pre­par­ing for the World Cup and the home ad­van­tage makes them favourites. Mex­ico are also favourites: they have a strong team and are used to this tour­na­ment. New Zealand are an un­pre­dictable team in th­ese short com­pe­ti­tions, with a big mo­ti­va­tion as the world is watch­ing.

Can you win the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup?

Por­tu­gal aren’t go­ing as tourists to the tour­na­ment. The tour­na­ment was pre­ceded by a very im­por­tant qual­i­fier so, at the mo­ment, I am not pre­oc­cu­pied by the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup. My pri­mary fo­cus was the qual­i­fier [Por­tu­gal won 3-0 away to Latvia], which is very im­por­tant for the 2018 World Cup, where we want to be. Af­ter that game we will con­cen­trate on the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup. We will pre­pare the team with the ob­jec­tive of win­ning the tour­na­ment, even though we are not the favourites. We will be among the chal­lengers, that is for sure.

In­ter­view by Sa­min­dra Kunti

Cham­pi­ons... at the Eu­ros


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