Brown out to reconquer the world

Jose Luis Brown might not be a household name in world football but as far as Argentina fans are concerned, the man they call El Tata will always have a place in their hearts. After all, it was his powerful header that set La Albiceleste on the road to a 3-2 victory over West Germany in the Final of the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™.

A leader on the pitch, with a commanding voice and a character to match, Brown has channelled all the qualities that made him a respected performer into his current career as a coach. And once again, that competitive streak has given him the chance to create yet more history as he embarks on the job of guiding Argentina's U-17s to their first ever world crown in Nigeria.

Just minutes before announcing his final squad list for the tournament, the former centre-back spoke exclusively to about his side's chances and the obstacles they will face in Africa.

Breaking the good news... and the bad
Some coaches welcome the chance to announce their squad for an international tournament. For Brown, however, crossing the names of expectant young players off the list is not something that filled him with relief.

"I was a player too and I know what they go through," explained the 52-year-old. "It really hurts me to have to let down kids with so much talent and hope. I've just been by the dressing room and I saw them crying and being consoled by their team-mates. And as the coaching staff that makes us feel very sad."

I've just been by the dressing room and I saw them crying and being consoled by their team-mates. That makes us feel very sad.
Jose Luis Brown on leaving some players out his Argentina squad for Nigeria 2009

Despite his obvious empathy with their situation, Brown knows he has to keep his mind on the task in hand, that of emerging triumphant at Nigeria 2009. "It doesn't matter what the age category is, I see this as a great opportunity to take Argentina to the top," he declared.

"I don't want to put any pressure on the boys but we all know that when you wear this shirt you not only have to be committed, you also have to go for the title. That's our duty and the squad knows it. There's a lot of weight that comes with that shirt and everyone wants to get the better of it. Our expectations are high, let me tell you."

To achieve their lofty goal, the young Argentinians will be looking to the FIFA World Cup winner for guidance. And they will need all his know-how to negotiate a very testing section that pits them against Nigeria, Germany and Honduras.

"The Nigerians are the hosts and the champions from two years ago as well," he warned. "And the Germans are the reigning European champions, which means Honduras should be a step below them. That doesn't mean to say we'll be taking them lightly, though. Far from it. It's a match we'll have to go out and win, and if we can do that it will put us in a better position for the second game."

Villalva, the ace in the pack
Among the young stars at Brown's disposal is Daniel Alberto Villalva, a compact and lethal forward who has already forced his way into the first team at River Plate. "Keko is very important for us, acknowledged his coach.

"His short stature is an advantage against defenders and we're obviously hoping for him to play a key role. The most important thing for me, though, is the fact that he hasn't changed since he started playing in the first division. He's just another member of the team."

Yet Brown is well aware that even the most talented players can find it hard to deliver consistent performances at this age level. "They're just kids and things like a row with a girlfriend or someone in their family can sometimes affect their form," he explained.

We've got respect for all our opponents, but we're going out there to win the tournament. Finishing in the top four is not good enough.
Argentina coach Jose Luis Brown

"We talk a lot with the players, though. We spend time with them and we try to get it through to them that this is a World Cup. I think we've prepared really well and they know the opportunity that's in front of them."

And as he goes on to explain, El Tata is anxious for them to seize it with both hands. "We've got respect for all our opponents, but we're going out there to win the tournament," he said. "Finishing in the top four is not good enough for me.

"That's the truth and I'm not the only one who thinks that way. I'm sure the coaches of Brazil, Germany and Nigeria feel the same. And on a personal level, winning the title would give me an awful lot of satisfaction. It would be our way of thanking the people who've backed us, especially Checho (national U-20 coach Sergio Batista), who brought me here."

Brown was one of Batista's assistants when Argentina won the Men's Olympic Football Tournament at Beijing 2008, and the two were also team-mates at Mexico 1986. With that kind of pedigree behind him, do not be surprised to see the former defender getting his hands on more silverware in mid-November.