He competed in three FIFA World Cups, won 73 caps for Germany and was widely considered to be one of the most exciting players of the Eighties. Now Pierre Littbarski leads Oceania champions Sydney FC to Japan, the land where he spent some of his happiest times. The 44-year-old coach chatted to FIFA.com about first-match opponents Deportivo Saprissa, the Australian side's chances and his dreams of returning to Yokohama.
FIFA.com: What are your thoughts now the line-up is complete for the FIFA Club World Championship?
Pierre Littbarski: For me this is just like a dream from which I don't want to wake up. In a short time we have achieved such a lot. We are just a young team that has qualified for an extraordinary tournament and I think it's a dream that can go on. We will try our very best to perform at the highest level that we can. The other teams, like Liverpool and Sao Paulo, have a strong history but I think that we also have things to offer. We have Dwight Yorke, we have Kazu and we have other beautiful players and we will try to do everything to ensure we play well at the tournament.
Is the team experienced enough to be playing against such high quality opposition?
We have a few young players in the team that are playing their first season as a professional. But also we tried, especially through Dwight Yorke and Kazu, to add some know-how, and these two players are very experienced. We've also got some other players who've played overseas and at professional level. Sure we are newcomers and that can be a disadvantage but we have some other qualities and we will bring the Aussie fighting spirit in.
What do you know of your first match opponents Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica?
We have the tapes from the qualification games and they are looking quite good, quite fast. There is a little gap between them and us but that doesn't mean they are unbeatable. We have to expect different things from the A-League with tougher teams, tougher opponents and a higher speed.
To what extent can you draw on the experiences of the Socceroos and their recent World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay?
The experience of the national team is a big point. Everyone is underestimating us (Australian teams) but they still have to beat us. We won't just be going there to be there, we want to have success and we feel very hungry which is an advantage for a young club. We don't look back; we just go forward and challenge every difficulty. Saprissa will be a tough team to beat but we have had one surprise with the Australian national team - everyone is very happy about that - so why not make a second surprise in Tokyo and Yokohama
What will the team need to focus on to succeed?
We need more concentration over 90 minutes. A small mistake can cost us the win and especially with teams like Saprissa whose scoring average is higher than the A-League. One big part will be the defence being compact. I'm not worry so much about our offence, I think we can maybe score anytime so I think the defence is the important thing for this game.
Do you have any concerns going into the tournament?
I don't have concerns because the motivation is very strong. This is maybe a-once-in-a-lifetime tournament and I'm very excited. Even though I went to world cups I think this is a very good opportunity for the players to show what they can do on a world stage. There will be many people watching both live and on the television and that will be motivation enough to show they have the quality. They miss perhaps a little experience but the quality is there and I'm happy if they can show that.
Is the team well prepared and does the timing of the tournament fit in well with your preparations?
The team is still growing. We have done some good things with the team from the beginning until now. We are still not perfect but I think we will have the qualities to compete against Saprissa. Liverpool is a different story because they are packed with great players.
Perhaps Sydney FC will receive some strong support from the Japanese public because of Kazu and Australia's move into the Asian Football Confederation?
There are a few points that are important for the Japanese. One is that we are coming into the Asian Confederation. They will also like the fact that Kazu is playing with us - probably the only Japanese player that can play in the tournament - that is huge. The third thing is that our team maybe will be the underdogs and the Japanese like to support the underdogs. These three things will maybe give us some home advantage.
Finally, this must be an especially exciting tournament for you having lived in Japan for so long?
Absolutely, and I have looked at the schedule and if we somehow could win against Saprissa, that would lead us to Yokohama which is actually my home town where I lived. It is also the stadium where my team played and where the 2002 World Cup final was played. It brings back a lot of memories for me. It really is a big dream and I'm hoping we don't embarrass Australia but I think also that we have a small chance to play one time in Yokohama.