Mere hours ahead of the Final of Canada 2007, pitting Czech Republic against reigning champions Argentina, respective coaches Miroslav Soukup and Hugo Tocalli gave their unique insights into Sunday's title decider in Toronto. Key factors, previous encounters and potential victory celebrations were all discussed exclusively with FIFA.com.
Both teams already went face-to-face in the sides'
opening game of Group E here in Canada. What has changed since
Miroslav Soukup: The opening game was really important for us. Argentina are multiple world champions, and we knew that getting off to a good start would smooth our path through the rest of the tournament, maybe as far as the Final. The draw in the first match earned us a point that was worth its weight in gold, and maybe we can transfer that golden touch to our final match against Argentina.
Hugo Tocalli: A significant yet simple change has taken place: since that drawn game, both teams have played five more matches. That is why I'm able to say that we've now found our feet at this competition, and both sets of coaching staff will have definitely been able to iron out a few flaws that needed attention.
What would you say were the Czech Republic's strengths
MS: When things are going well for the team, then that raises the performance level of each individual player. It doesn't work the other way round, though. The ball we're playing with is called "Teamgeist", and that's our motto as well - team spirit.
HT: I can't really see any weaknesses. They are a very compact side, who counter-attack well and break towards the opposition goal in numbers. Defensively, as soon as they lose the ball they regroup quickly into a tight unit. It's true that they haven't scored many goals, but they are still a very dangerous outfit.
And Argentina's strengths and weaknesses?
MS: Argentina are an exceptional team, as simple as that. They have some incredible individual talents and a lot better pool of players to choose from than we do. We have some 30 lads at our disposal and 21 of them are here in Canada. Argentina must have 20 times as many good players - even their reserves would make a great team. They're one of the best sides in the world, and they're very much the favourites. We'll have to battle like we did in the opening match. If luck is on our side and Argentina have an off day, then we'll stand a chance.
HT: There's no doubt that the team are very good on the ball, play nice football and are always capable of grabbing a goal. I really liked how we performed in our last three games. [In those games] the team played really well, kept their shape and played intelligent football. We're hoping to match those performances on Sunday.
What does being in the Final mean to you?
MS: For me personally, to have reached the Final of a World Cup is the ultimate achievement. When I was 18, I was a real fan of Mario Kempes and it was my ambition to play against Argentina - and here I am now in a final against Argentina. It's incredible.
HT: To reach the final of a world championship is a great feeling for any coach. It's enormously satisfying, because it represents the culmination of two years' work with a particular group of players. I've been fortunate enough to experience this on four occasions, when I worked alongside Jose [Pekerman]. It feels just the same as it did then, given that I had the same level of responsibility as I do now, the only difference is that he was the one who used to talk to the press.
What is the key to Sunday's match?
MS: The key will be somewhere out here on the park (points to the Toronto pitch), and it will be up to us to find it. The game starts off at 0-0, and if it's still like that after 90 minutes, then maybe we'll stand a chance when it gets to penalties.
HT: I'm certain that the key lies in opening up the game. If Argentina can score a goal and open up the game, they (Czech Republic) will have to be a bit less cautious. If that happens, it will have a decisive impact on what happens later on.
Could a lack of experience tip the balance against the
MS: Argentina are clear favourites. The advantage we have is that we are already guaranteed at least a silver medal, and no-one can take that away from us. We're in the Final, and theoretically we should be able to play without any pressure.
HT: Honestly? I don't think so, no. We're in a World Cup Final, so experience won't be that big a factor. Whoever manages to control the game with greater assurance will win. On a personal note, it's vital we don't become over-anxious to score. If the team plays well then a goal will come in due course, not the other way around.
The Czechs have gone to penalties twice and won both times,
while Argentina have not played extra time thus far in the
tournament. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?
MS: Any game that goes into extra time takes it out of you physically, which means that we've used up more energy than Argentina so far, having twice played an extra 30 minutes. When it comes to penalties, though, it's a real advantage for us, since my players already know what it's like to take a penalty at a critical moment.
HT: There are two reasons why I don't think that gives us any advantage at all. The first is that the Czech's style of play is not so physically demanding. The other is that they've already had time to recover properly. You don't feel tired in a World Cup final, the players might feel the added fatigue afterwards but during the game it won't make any difference.
How will you react if you win Sunday's game?
MS: I couldn't tell you. First we'll all have to go back home and then calmly look back at everything that's happened in Canada. In any case, it's only four or five years later that it really sinks in.
HT: The first thing I'd do would be to speak to my family. Then, my second call would be to Jose [Pekerman], no doubt about that. He's had a big part to play in all of this too.