Eric CantonaAt the start of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2005, Eric Cantona told FIFA.com he fully intended returning home with the trophy - and so it transpired. Just moments after the game had ended, the French coach reflected on a sensational final, and a fabulous week's work in the Brazilian sunshine.
Eric Cantona, you told us last week you were here to win the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. I imagine you a very happy man…
I honestly think we showed enough over the week to prove that we are worthy winners. Having said that, sides who deserve to win don't always prevail, so I am very pleased. We had to work and we had to fight. We knew that you don't get to be world champions without a struggle. We were striving to improve in every game. We have been working together for years, and now we have reaped our reward. We won the European Championship last September and now the world title. That is some year for French beach soccer! Now comes the hard part. We have to keep improving and that's difficult because it's tough to do better than winning a world title. But we will improve and I know we have the players to do so. I'll still be here to sort things out if anyone gets out of line. But I have faith in my players, because they are a great bunch.
What was your view on that extraordinary final?
I'm just glad we ended up winning it. But we should not forget how hard it was if we are to improve. Given that we were two goals up with two minutes to go, we should have won more comfortably. Sure we could concede a goal, but with eight seconds to go and when you are in a two-on-one situation, I think you should try to keep the ball. But my guys are like that, they can't stop playing. And we could have paid the penalty. Now we need to learn from this experience. I've already told my players, and I will keep on at them about it. To have lost a World Cup because of an error like that would have been dumb.
If you had to pick out one image from the final, what would it be?
There were so many it's difficult to say. Time dragged today. My heart and my nerves were really put to the test (laughs). On sand, you can never be sure of anything. An ordinary shot can take a wicked deflection at the last moment. We lost a European Championship to a shot like that. So I was stressed out right to the end and I can't really pick out one moment over another.
The winner of a competition often gets stronger over the tournament. Here we sensed you were 100% ready right from the first game. How do you explain that?
Our win in the European Championship was a major reason. We knew all the teams at this World Cup very well and knew we were in with a shout. We realised we could pull off something huge and that we would have to work to achieve our goal. We started very well in each game, and were able to see matches out without wasting energy chasing the ball and the score, and getting wound up. If we had let the Portuguese get ahead today, after the match they just won against Brazil, they would have been very strong mentally. That's what I asked my players to do in every game; get out there and take the lead. If you look back at our matches we always scored first. That is a major source of satisfaction for me.
Looking back over the competition as a whole, what memories will you take back with you?
I really felt like I saw some fantastic matches. All the sides played with a lot of ambition. The sport has really come on, and the gap has narrowed between the teams. The pressure people put on themselves and the rivalry between the teams is much more marked. And I think that's a good thing. As long as that rivalry remains within the spirit of competition, it con only spur everyone on.
The cooperation between FIFA and the BSWW was very good. That enabled us to take part in an extremely well-organised World Cup. We will continue to strive together to help the sport progress.
France have been impressive more for their team-work than for any individual performances. Nonetheless, up front you have been able to rely upon an excellent striker in Anthony Mendy. What have you made of his performances?
For me he's been impressive all over the pitch and all throughout this tournament. As well as having played marvellously in attack, he's also defended very well. He might not be an Amarelle or a Madjer, but he's the complete player. And he's every bit as valuable as they are. Plus, he's still very young and has a huge desire to get better. He will too, I'm sure of it.
Finally, what do you think the consequences of your triumph here will be?
Stepping back a little from what we've just achieved, I can't help thinking our victory is great news for beach soccer in general. The discipline is already fairly well known in France, but promoting it will be all the easier now. And I think our title will reverberate around the whole world. After Portugal did it, seeing another team other than Brazil become world champions is excellent news, and for me it's another reason to be pleased.