What were the greatest moments in your playing career and what were your disappointments?
For all footballers, it is a great honour to play in the World Cup and I did that three times in a row: 1978, ‘82 and ‘86. But because of injuries and other factors we didn’t manage to win it. Of course you have ups and downs, but I can’t help thinking that we could have done better.
I truly believe that if we had won in 1982, we would have changed the way football is played today. That’s something I feel disappointed about. Many teams concentrate too much on winning and do whatever they can to win, so that they abandon the artistic part of the game and the beauty that sports naturally have. They play defensively to draw and beat their opposition in penalty shootouts. The Brazil teams I played in were not like that.
To win a match, you prioritise either not conceding goals or attacking to score. Quite a few people seem to focus on not giving away goals these days, but I’d settle for scoring goals any day.
In 1978 and 1982, Brazil displayed great football but couldn’t win the tournament, while the teams of 1994 and 2002 might not have been quite so eye-catching, but won the FIFA World Cup. What made the difference?
One of the factors could be the rules. Every team tries hard to fully exploit the regulations to win a match. But after Brazil failed to win the World Cup three times (from 1978-86), they seemed to change the way they played the game – in order to win.
In the end, they came to the conclusion that they should actually play an attacking game, countering the strengths of their opponents with their own brand of football. That’s what the team of 2002 did and that’s how they won the Cup.
So you were happy with the team of 2002?
That was the kind of style I like. They played an attacking game with a solid defence. When they needed to take a risk, they did so aggressively and that made me feel good.
Is that something you are trying to achieve with Japan?
That’s right. Football is all about scoring goals.
You’ve been involved with Japanese football for a long time. What’s the fascination?
It’s nice that Japan has acknowledged what I have done here, which is, I believe, to help improve its football. I didn’t ask for any special consideration, but Japan has always given me opportunities to work in football. Of course there have been problems from time to time but I managed to resolve them. Japanese people probably regard me more as Japanese than Brazilian now.
When you try to nurture someone or something, you can’t always be nice to them and sometimes you have to be pretty tough to get your message across. But the Japanese people have listened to me and used my advice. They understand why I say certain things, and I feel appreciated. I like Japan from the bottom of my heart and that’s why I took up the offer to coach Japan and because I thought I could do something for them. If the offer had come from Brazil, I wouldn’t have taken it.
Are you enjoying your coaching job then?
I like it – certainly more than interviews (laughs)! I was born to work on the pitch.