Del Bosque remaining focused
© AFP

Three months after taking over from Luis Aragones at the helm of the European Champions, Vicente del Bosque welcomed FIFA.com to his office at the Spanish Football Association (RFEF), where he is preparing for Spain's next two qualifiers against Estonia and Belgium.

The 57-year-old strategist was his typically serene and thoughtful self, qualities that proved invaluable during his time in charge of a Real Madrid side packed with star names. And as if to underline his commitment to team spirit and squad harmony, the experienced coach answers every question using "we" instead of "I" - thus sharing the credit with his valued support staff.

The tasks before Del Bosque and his team are clear: maintain the air of optimism pervading the national squad and their supporters, and remain in contention for yet more silverware.

FIFA.com: Your reign with Spain has begun with three consecutive wins. How would you rate your start to this new era?
Vicente del Bosque:
It has served to help me familiarise myself with the situation. I've had a great deal of help from everybody. Picking up two good results in competitive action has meant that we've maintained that air of positivity and optimism that surrounds the Spanish national side. Those six points are very important to our future chances in a group that is clearly going to be very tricky and which contains several contenders for a place at the World Cup.

So far Spain have faced perhaps the two easiest group opponents, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia.
I don't agree, Bosnia will prove that they're not easy opponents.

But, in theory, Belgium and Turkey would appear to be the toughest group rivals.
I'd put Bosnia in there too, as one of the teams in with a chance of finishing first or second in the group. I've got faith in them. They caused us a lot of problems and then scored seven goals in their second game. They've got very experienced players who have cut their teeth at big European clubs.

Turkey are obviously a very competitive team, with very committed players. Their league is working hard to make progress and is being strengthened by the arrival of foreign players and coaches. They have performed well at every international competition.

The Belgian national team has undergone a lot of changes, with just a few veterans remaining, and has been built around the Olympic squad that had an excellent tournament in Beijing. They've got very good players and are going to be difficult opponents.

Will you be asking Luis Aragones for any inside information on Turkey?
If I needed anything I wouldn't have a problem asking him. In fact, I'm sure he'd be very receptive. I think we know the Turkish team well, not just because we coached there (with Besiktas during 2004/05), but because of their performances at international level such as at the recent European Championship, where they did very well. Besides which, the Turkish national team is, with the odd exception, mainly made up of players from Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, plus a few from Besiktas and Trabzonspor.

The Spanish squad closed ranks after UEFA EURO 2008 and staunchly defended your predecessor Luis Aragones. How did they react to your appointment?
Very well, there were no problems at all. They are very well-mannered lads. But I don't want that dressing-room harmony to end, so it's something I'll have to put a lot of effort into.

Given that you are more used to working at club level, where you get to work with the players on a daily basis, how are you adapting to life as a national team coach?
I've adapted fine. Those 15 years I spent in youth development and scouting in my early years at Real Madrid were not in vain. There was a lot of work involving observing players as well as off-the-pitch preparations. For that reason, all this doesn't seem so strange.

Is it hard to leave players out after they have helped win the European Championship?
Of course, but it's inevitable. You have to leave people out, if only for the simple fact that the EURO squad contained 23 players. But above all it's because football is very much a living thing, in a permanent state of change. You have to always be looking for new players who can improve on what's been done before. That's pretty much a given in life.

Even so, we had the huge boost of taking over a settled squad, a national side that practically selected itself.

Given you have such a young squad, bringing in new faces must be tricky.
Yes, yes. But I don't want to cling on to the past and I imagine that if the previous coach had stayed in the job he would have changed a few things too, ironed out a few weaknesses. Even when it comes to a national team that are European champions, staying static is not a good thing.

We have grown used to seeing players start out younger and younger. Do you think that experienced players are phased out too soon?
No, fans too start getting tired of players once they've been there a few years - it happens at club and national-team level. It seems that a permanent state of renewal is somehow obligatory. But there are still countries in which national team players stay involved for a long time and are very well respected. It's our duty not to rely totally on the players we already have and burn them out, instead choosing to respect their experience but without forgetting to leave the door open for outstanding youngsters. It's a difficult balance.

After winning EURO 2008, the national team have set the bar very high. However, are you concerned about the possibility of overconfidence?
Yes, that would be bad. We have to be alert to that possibility. We can't go thinking we're superstars because there are other very good teams out there. All this praise could weaken our cause. But I've got faith in the intelligence of our players, players who've broken down a lot of psychological barriers. They'll now know how to face up to challenges that are equally big or even bigger than what they've achieved so far, by these I mean the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.

Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas and Pepe Reina, among others, are enjoying great success in the English Premier League. Do you think that the fact that Spanish players are moving abroad has helped the national team to grow?
The fact that our players are moving elsewhere is something to be accepted as totally natural. Borders no longer exist in football, players from different countries all mix together. For me personally, I think it's good that they go abroad.

Is there anything lacking from this national side?
If something was missing I wouldn't tell you, because I'd be making a rod for my own back! But we always want to improve and find the best players. As national team coaches, we want it to be ever more difficult to choose who to select, because that would be a sign that we have a wide range of players available. If everybody was in agreement about a given national squad list, it would suggest that there wasn't much competition for places.

The FIFA Confederations Cup will be your first major tournament at the national team helm. Is it something you look forward to or are concerned about?
Right now our main concern is qualifying for the World Cup. Once we reach the end of the (2008/09) season, it'll be the turn of the Confederations Cup, which is shaping up to be a very attractive tournament with the best teams from each continent. We need the players to be injury-free, as they'll be coming off the back of a hectic season. We also need to know how and when to use them in order to enjoy a successful tournament.


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