Q: Did you like the group that Brazil got in the Cup?
T: We are the favorites, but all the other teams in our group have qualities. Our first opponent, Switzerland, is one of the best-placed teams in the FIFA ranking. They have a well-armed team with great players. Liechsteiner, who plays for Juventus of Turin, is on top. Xhaka is Arsenal’s midfielder, and he has a lot of quality as a player. Shaqiri (Stoke City), the same. It is an experienced team. In 2014, nobody expected Costa Rica to qualify. And it won against Uruguay, eliminated Italy and England and only lost on penalties against the Netherlands. It is a respectful adversary. Serbia has technical quality, a supported play and they combine competitiveness with creativity. Our group will not be easy.
Q: And what is your strategy for Brazil to do well in Russia?
T: Our team will have to win their games being the best, the most competent. If a team attacks us, we will have to know how to counterattack. This is the detail that we will have to improve. Our obligation is to evolve. We have to grow in technical, mental and physical quality. These are the only variables that I can control. Winning is another story since on the other side there are well-prepared teams. Our preparation to face Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia will be the same as if we had Spain, England or any other team in the group. Nobody wins games just with the jersey or tradition. Three World Cups ago Italy was the world champion. And it’s out of the 2018 Cup. The Netherlands, the third-placed team in 2014, will not be in Russia next year either. The same for Chile, a team with the best retrospective in South America, in the last four years. Up to the World Cup, we will have to consolidate our team and grow.
Q: What are the next steps in preparation?
T: In March of next year, we will have two friendly matches, against Germany and Russia in Europe. Then, we will enter the final phase of preparation. At the end of May, I, the technical commission and the players will go to the Comary Farm, in Teresópolis, and will play a friendly match at the Maracana. Then we will travel to England, for the first part of acclimatization in Europe, at the training center of Tottenham, in London. After that, we go to Sochi, which will be our base during the Cup.
Q: Did the fact that your team will not play in Sochi in any phase of the World Cup in Russia bother you?
T: Let’s just say, it’s not ideal to stay in Sochi without playing there at all. But neither I nor anyone else had control to determine Brazil’s position in the draw. My priority was that we had a good training camp, good logistics, good environment for the athletes to rest. And we will have all of that in Sochi.
Q: When will the list of players registered for the Russian Cup be closed?
T: The friendly matches of March next year (against Germany and Russia) will be the penultimate phase, before the definition of the team that will play the World Cup. Only after playing matches against opponents with game characteristics similar to the selections we will face in the first phase of the Cup will we define the team.
Q: Can surprises appear in Brazil’s World Cup team?
T: Up to the final list, whoever has a Brazilian passport and is playing well may be called. Artur is impressing me, Hernanes is impressing me, Malcom is impressing me. And there are other names in this same situation. I put pressure on the players for performance and they pressure me for the call for playing well.
Q: When you took charge of the national team, Brazil was still stunned by the 7-1 suffered against Germany and was the sixth in the Qualifiers, therefore outside the Cup. How was it to rescue Brazilian soccer?
T: I started off rescuing our trust. I felt in the athletes a concern for the position of Brazil in the table, outside the classification. This generates concern, too much pressure. I met Sebastião Lazzaroni (coach for Brazil in the 1990 Cup, in Italy) and he told me that if I did not qualify the national team, I would have to hide in the confines of Brazil. If we fail, I will have to go to the confines of Kazakhstan.
Q: And how did the self-esteem change?
T: First, I simplified. I defined a tactical system based on the positions and functions that athletes were accustomed to doing in clubs. And the game supported, with ball possession and triangulations, shorter spaces. This way of playing is part of my DNA.
Q: Does Brazil depend a lot on Neymar?
T: The team likes and cannot give up having one of the three top players in the world. But for Neymar to do what is expected of him, the whole team has to be strong. And I also have to be strong. It is inhumane to place [it all] on the back of the Neymar the responsibility for the success or failure of the team. And I’m not going to do that.
Q: In 2002, the last Cup in which Brazil was world champion, the Brazilian team had three amazing players, which could unbalance a game, at any time. In addition to Neymar, will we see any more amazing players in 2018?
T: Philipe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, William, Marcelo. We have Daniel Alves, who in addition to playing a lot has an incredible leadership spirit. We have three spectacular defenders. Fernandinho and Casemiro playing a lot. I am impressed with the technical level of some players on our team. I do not know how far our team can go. But I’m going to challenge and encourage this team to grow. Until where? I don’t know. I have 16 matches with the Brazilian team. If I put myself in the role, I have sixteen games as a coach for Brazil. This is not even three months in a club. In essence, Brazil needs to consolidate and grow. We have to look at ourselves, see what tactical variations our team can have and make the adaptations according to the adversaries.
What the adversaries say:
“Having the opportunity to play against Brazil in a Cup is magnificent, to face a favorite team to win the cup, to begin with, we have to believe in our strength and work, be well concentrated and wait for the opportunity, at the right time.”
Vladimir Petkovic, Switzerland manager
“Brazil is the big favorite of our group and, at least on paper, we will fight for second place, but our team is technical, they know how to play soccer and we have a good atmosphere… When it comes to World Cups, no game is won on the eve.”
Mladen Krstajic, Serbia manager
“Just like in 1990, when I was a player, we have Brazil and two European teams in our group, the Brazilians are favorites and Switzerland and Serbia are strong, but as we proved against England, Uruguay and Italy in 2014, Costa Ricans like hard challenges.”
Óscar Ramírez, Costa Rica manager