“We won’t be tourists in Russia”
Portugal’s Euro-winning coach reflects on the upcoming Confederations Cup
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
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