When it comes to being able to get inside the heads of FIFA World Cup™ participants, not many are better placed to explain what they may be thinking than former England star Glenn Hoddle.
A veteran of three global finals, Hoddle crossed the white line with his team-mates in 1982 and '86, before returning as a coach at France 1998. Now overseeing the games as a pundit, the ex-Tottenham Hotspur and Monaco midfielder has garnered an insight into the challenges faced by those with the ball at their feet and the men calling the shots.
Now featuring in the book titled The Manager – Inside the Minds of Football’s Leaders, which was produced by the League Managers Association, Hoddle took time out to talk with FIFA.com about his predictions for Brazil 2014, the difference in pressure for players and coaches, and how they will be feeling so close to the big kick-off.
FIFA.com: Glenn, England have been in Miami trying to acclimatise ahead of the opening game. Do you think the conditions are going to be one of the major factors deciding how they do?
Glenn Hoddle: This is the right place to come to try to acclimatise to Manaus, but unless you go to a jungle, you are never going to get perfect conditions that are going to be parallel. It's pretty evident to me that the Italy game will be decided in the last 20-25 minutes. You saw Ecuador's substitutes inject some pace and liveliness into that game and did very well when they came on – and our subs are going to have to have a massive impact.
You have experience of playing in unfamiliar conditions yourself at Mexico 1986. How did you find it?
That was over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) but it was at altitude as well, so that was immense. We were losing 14-15lbs in weight per game, it was amazing. In Monterrey it was like an oven door when you walked out – it was stifling. It was hard to catch your breath with the altitude and the thin air. I don't think these conditions are going to be as bad as we had in Mexico in 1986, though it will be tough in Manaus. The rest of the tournament shouldn't be too bad.
It was a fabulous thing to have and a proud moment to walk out as a player and a manager. You can't beat that for the sense of achievement.
Who do you think will impress in Brazil, and do you think there are any sides that may spring a surprise?
I think this is a really open tournament. I really don't fancy Brazil to win it – I think their frailties are defensively. I would go for Argentina, but then again they are under pressure every year. The Germans have found it hard to get over the line. When have you ever had a German coach who has had over 100 games and not won a tournament? For the Spanish to win it back-to-back is going to be extremely difficult, although they've got a very strong squad still. You wouldn't want to play Belgium, but whether they believe they can go and win is another thing. I think it's down to their mental belief, but they've certainly got the talent and the squad. Even teams like Colombia and Japan will surprise people with the talent that they've got. It's a very, very open race, but I'll stick my neck out and go for Argentina.
What will be going through Roy Hodgson's and the other coaches' minds in the final preparation stages?
The one thing that Roy didn't want, he got with [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain. When you get to this stage you just don't need the headache of losing a player. I think the way he was playing [against Ecuador] he might have been playing himself into the team. Now's the time you just want to get over the [start] line. You are thinking, 'We just want to get there, get the real thing started and get a week's planning for that game'.
And what were your feelings leading into your two tournaments as a player?
Excitement, really. You just can't wait. You are almost imagining games in your head, you want to train well but you also don't want to injure yourself, so it's a bit of a nervous time as well but you just have to get on and do it. There's a real buzz about the camp, and the next thing you'll be wanting to know who's playing and what are your chances of getting in. If you know you're playing you'll be enjoying it even more.
How did the pressure compare between going as a player and as a coach? Was there a noticeable difference?
Oh, yeah, they're chalk and cheese. As a player you just have got yourself to prepare, mentally and physically. You've got your duties as a player individually, and the pressure's on there, but you are looking after one person really. As a coach you are looking after the whole group of people – every player, the staff, your backroom staff, you've even got the pressure of your country building up. But it's excitement, it was a fabulous thing to have and a proud moment to walk out as a player and a manager. You can't beat that for the sense of achievement, it's a wonderful feeling.
It was wonderful to see him emerge and his goal against Argentina was sensational for a young man.
You famously gave Michael Owen his breakthrough on the global stage in 1998 as well.
We knew what we had, but against Tunisia we didn't start [Owen], but we knew we were going to unleash him. He was very much going to play against Colombia – which is the good thing about the opening three games, as you know who you're going to play against – as they were so square, played high up and lacked a bit of pace. He came off the bench in the second game and scored, and then played against Colombia. We knew what we had with his pace, but no-one else did and it was wonderful to see him emerge and his goal against Argentina was sensational for a young man. When you look at the way he went past [Roberto] Ayala, the last man, he didn't know who he was, and if he had he would have respected the fact he was quick and respected the fact he was right-footed. Even now I can picture it, when he came to the ball I knew Michael was going past him as [Ayala] came square-on. I thought, 'No, he doesn't understand how quick this kid is', and bang, the ball was in the net.
You mention in the book that one of the key things you tried to do in France was keeping up the spirits of the players that weren't getting picked. Do you think that overall harmony is an important factor?
I think it is. Subs are going to be so vital. When you look at the Manaus game for instance, it is probably the team that finishes that's going to be more important in how we get a result. I wasn't in the starting line-up at the beginning of the '82 World Cup, so I've been in it myself. I played the next two, but didn't start the first so I knew where I was coming from.
The book contains a lot of managers' secrets. Do you think passing on these sorts of insights is one of the best ways to develop young managers?
Yes, of course. Everyone picks up ideas and that's the beauty of football – no-one person has all the answers. The answers are always unfolding, whether you're the best footballer in the world or the best manager in the world. There are opinions, there's little tips that you can take from each person, and that's the kind of thing the book achieves, and that's why I think it will be a fantastic read for anyone interested in football, but if they are coaching at any level it will be of interest to them.
Glenn Hoddle is one of a number of former coaches to contribute to 'The Manager – Inside the Minds of Football’s Leaders'