With SC Internacional do Porto Alegre in the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores but without a coach after the dismissal of Jorge Fossati, Celso Roth’s gamble at leaving Vasco da Gama to take the helm at O Colorado in June paid dividends within two months. After reinvigorating the squad and guiding them to Libertadores glory, even a winless run in the latter stages of the Brazilian championship failed to diminish his lustre.
Ahead of Sport Club Internacional’s upcoming assault on the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010, Roth spoke to FIFA.com about his plans for the tournament, his team’s potential opponents and Inter’s chances of reclaiming a crown they won at Japan 2006.
FIFA.com: Internacional struggled for consistency during the latter stages of the Brazilian national championship. Are the team capable of reproducing the form they showed in winning the Libertadores?
Celso Roth: Yes, Internacional are just as strong as they were then. Some players have left, but others have established themselves and grown in stature. We’re hoping to give a good account of ourselves at the Club World Cup, putting into practice the great work the players have been doing in training.
So, would you say that the team are ready for the competition?
We’re prepared. We’re going to be 100 per cent ready, both physically and tactically, for the start of the tournament, and we’ve worked on our game plans. Preparing the team (for UAE 2010) during the Brasileirao was the best thing we could have done, even though it may have been hard to justify some of the poorer results to the fans. We lost players due to injury and international call-ups, but the important thing was to focus on fitness work, rest and putting the players through their paces in training in case we need to change our style of play. They need to be prepared for that. And, of course, we were also able to use that time to study some potential opponents.
Your side will face TP Mazembe or Pachuca in the semi-finals at UAE 2010. What do you expect from those teams?
Our methodology is to make sure the team is ready to put in a solid display whatever the game. Thereafter, we’ll also make adjustments depending on the team we’re facing. We’ve been totally focused on the Club World Cup since our final game in the Brasileirao. Now it’s time to discuss things with the players, show them videos of Pachuca and Mazembe and train hard for a game that is sure to be very tough.
What are Internacional’s trump cards in their bid for a second FIFA Club World Cup title?
As I said before, Inter are very strong and united. Our trump cards are our players, who’ve all got quality, experience and fantastic individual strength. If we can turn that individual drive into collective effort at some point during the tournament, we’ve got a great chance. That’s the biggest challenge. The players are experienced and enjoy working together. That’s a key factor and, who knows - it might even help us win the title.
Do Internacional have a perfect blend in the shape of gritty performers like Bolivar and Pablo Guinazu and the silky skills of players like Giuliano and Andres D’Alessandro?
Yes, that combination is ideal for any team. But it’s important to point out that one characteristic doesn’t exclude another. Bolivar and Guinazu are also skilful players in their own way, just as Giuliano, D’Alessandro and Oscar work very hard for the team too.
Do you ever use Internacional’s past successes to guide your planning or motivate your players?
Examples are useful for underlining the difficulties that can arise in football. That’s why we have to focus on ourselves and really believe that we can win. Working very hard to beat an opposing team is the biggest show of respect we can give them.
Finally, you took over from Jorge Fossati with the Libertadores still in progress and the team reacted well. How much influence do you think you had on that successful campaign? Which changes proved most decisive?
I need to be a bit careful here, because I could end up sounding unfair, given that he (Fossati) deserves credit for taking the team to the Libertadores semi-final. But in the opinion of the fans and the press, before I took over Inter had one of the strongest squads in Brazil but were unable to live up to expectations. What I should say though, is that we had time to work with the players during the Brasileirao mid-season break (for the FIFA World Cup™) and instruct them in a new tactical system, one which made the most of the players’ quality and got them playing together. So, Inter started getting results and performing better, which is what caught everybody’s eye. That was perhaps the biggest difference.