The week of the Final Draw of the FIFA World Cup™ always has a special feel to it. Regardless of the venue or the identity of the 32 finalists, the eyes of the world's football fans and press invariably turn towards the year's most highly-anticipated event.
During the last few days, FIFA.com has had the opportunity to meet up with several of the national coaches set to attend the illustrious event next summer, as well as some of the most prominent characters in the history of the beautiful game, from Alcides Ghiggia, Louis van Gaal and Cafu to Fabio Cannavaro and Zinedine Zidane.
As a taster of things to come over the next few weeks, FIFA.com presents you with some choice snippets from the interviews carried out with these iconic figures.
“What would I give to see Uruguay win the World Cup in Brazil again? Life itself! I've already experienced it as a player, but to witness it again from the stands would be priceless,” Alcides Ghiggia, sole survivor of the Uruguay side that became world champions in 1950 and scorer of the unforgettable winning goal in the Estadio do Maracana.
“When I think of Brazil, the words that spring to mind are 'party' and 'spectacle'. It's the country of football. It's the place that the World Cup should be played. Brazil's inspired me since I was a little boy. Whenever my friends and me would kick a ball around in the streets, we'd pretend to be Brazilian players,” 1998 World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane.
“Germany's chances of lifting the World Cup? It's now or never!” 1990 World Cup winner Lothar Matthaus.
“It would be disrespectful to say that we're going to Brazil to win the World Cup, because I believe that the usual suspects are the favourites. But that doesn't mean that we can't be one of the teams that create a few surprises. Our goal is to prepare so that we can compete as equals. Am I wary of the Chilean fans' high expectations? Yes, a little. Because it puts us in a position where we’re not necessarily sure if we’re fully prepared,” Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli.
“When I was at Real Madrid, I used to say to Iker Casillas that this generation of Spanish footballers had great talent but that they had to learn to be a bit 'nastier’ to achieve great things. Clearly they did that,” 2006 World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro.
“I always look for players who fit my system and approach but the choice of captain is a bit different. Age is not important, but a strong personality is essential. At Barcelona the captain is always a more experienced player, but I was more concerned with finding someone I could get on with. At the time it was Guillermo Amor, but I wanted Pep Guardiola. When I told him, his first reaction was ‘No, I can't do it’. But I said it was his turn, and he became a great leader. We don't talk much now as we've taken different paths, but he knows how I feel about him as a person,” Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal.
“A World Cup Final can come down to tiny details. But several factors usually come together to enable a team to lift the trophy,” 2002 World Cup winner Cafu.
“If you want to know how much football has changed since 1966, the example I would give is this: the night before the World Cup Final we all went to the cinema. Twenty-one players, plus coaches and officials, left the hotel on foot. We sat down to watch the film, had an ice cream at the interval and headed back home. There wasn't one reporter with a camera in sight. You could never do anything like that now. Another example arose after the final, when we went to a special dinner organised for the four semi-finalists. We were all invited, except for our wives! Mine has not forgiven me for that,” 1966 World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst.
*Please visit FIFA.com over the coming days to gain access to the complete list of interviews with some of the biggest stars on Planet Football.