Carlos Queiroz is wrapped up in the excitement that only the FIFA World Cup™ can deliver: the Portugal coach is finally poised for involvement in the sport's showpiece event.
He is, however, intimately familiar with the tournament's host nation, South Africa. Queiroz, indeed, spent two years at the helm of Bafana Bafana, guiding them to qualification for Korea/Japan 2002 before resigning before the competition began. With less than 100 days to go until the big kick-off, FIFA.com caught up with the Mozambique-born 57-year-old to discuss A Selecção das Quinas's qualification campaign and preparations for the 19th edition of the FIFA World Cup.
FIFA.com: Carlos, how are Portugal’s preparations going for the tournament?
Carlos Queiroz: Were moving forward. Presently we are just putting all the details in place and trying to create the right harmony. There’s just a little bit of concern with one or two issues: for example, how the players will come to the camp, how they are going to start training, when to travel. To prepare the team with different stages involved is difficult.
With little time remaining until kick-off, what is the most important work left to do?
At this moment, I would say it is to pray for the players not to become injured - that’s the most important thing. Because once you have a clear picture about the situation of your team and views regarding the future, it’s important that everyone is in good shape when it's time to deliver.
There was a dramatic turnaround in form in the second-half of the qualifiers, with Portugal scoring eight goals without reply in their last four games and then beating Bosnia-Herzegovina in the European Zone play-offs. What do you think caused this change?
Without question it was belief. We always believed that Portugal were moving in the right direction. It was my clear impression that the first two or three results were not a testament to the quality of the team. So the most important thing was to believe that we were moving in the right direction.
What has impressed you most about South Africa’s preparations for the FIFA World Cup?
I think it's been great. For all of us that are familiar with this kind of event, we know that prior to a big tournament like this sometimes people with a lack of knowledge become anxious, frustrated or nervous. Those of us that are familiar with the organisation and structure, we know that when it's time to deliver everything will be in place.
Having lived in South Africa and experienced local conditions, how important do you think they will be to your campaign?
For me, I am especially keen to bring in the experience that I collected when I was South Africa’s coach. I met the people and experienced the structure. I also became familiar with South Africa's winter environment. I still have some memories and concerns that I’m trying to put in place to make sure Portugal don’t have any surprises.
Are there any specific Portuguese players that have impressed you recently?
We have presently a pool of around 40 players that we are observing and following very carefully. The foundations of the team will not change much. But of course the national team doors are wide open. We are always ready to call up the best players, those that perform well and are ready to deliver everything for the country.