Batista: Argentina can match Brazil

Sergio Batista is not your typical national coach. Not given to making the extravagant declarations some of his counterparts are known for, Argentina's Olympic boss prefers to keep a low profile, choose his words carefully and preach an uncomplicated vision of the game.

As anyone familiar with Argentinian football knows, El Checho was the instantly recognisable midfielder who appeared in two consecutive FIFA World Cup™ finals at Mexico 1986 and Italy 1990. Now shorn of the beard that helped make him famous, but still possessing the same relaxed approach that served him so well throughout his career, the former Argentinos Juniors and River Plate player spoke to about his footballing philosophy, the key to winning another gold medal and Tuesday's titanic tussle with Brazil, one he believes his charges will win. Sergio, this is your first tournament in charge of the Argentina team alongside Jose Luis Brown, a team-mate of yours at Mexico 1986. Tell us about the experience. What things are you enjoying the most?
Sergio Batista:
Being part of a group along with the players. I like to get on with them, chat a lot and see them happy. That and the fact you're doing something you like is what matters. If the team's not happy with me and if I see something's not right, then I'd be the first to step aside. And with El Tata (Brown) here, we've got a great chance. As players we've already shown what we have to give for the shirt and now we want to do the same in another capacity.

Let's talk about the rivalry with Brazil. How did you fare against them during your playing career?
I won two and lost two so I came out even. It's a special rivalry and it doesn't matter who's in better form going into the games. Either side can win. There's a lot of mutual respect and I'm sure we both would have preferred to avoid each other until the final. Let me make something clear, though: Brazil aren't any better than Argentina, even if they have won the last few meetings. They've just been having a good run, like we did back in the 90s.

Is the game at Italy 1990 the one that stands out for you?
Yes, of course. We didn't play well and although we suffered a lot we beat a very tough rival. It felt special, as it always does when we beat Brazil, but they feel the same way too when they beat us.

Dunga also played in that game. What are your memories of him?
He was already a great coach out on the pitch. He was a real organiser and he could hit the ball really hard. He wasn't the most gifted player but he had character and he ran the team. I don't remember having any run-ins with him. He was tough but he was a gentleman too.

And what do you think of him as a coach?
He's been criticised for the way Brazil have been playing but I wouldn't lay the blame on him. There aren't any pushovers in world football any more, and if you go out and play jogo bonito and end up losing then the critics are going to kill you. That's the way football is today sadly, so you have to be patient and tread carefully. He's knows that and that's how they won the last Copa America for example.

What kind of match will we see on Tuesday?
Both teams will be checking each other out but there's sure to be some good football because of all the great players on show. We'll be going out to win the game but we won't be naïve. I'm sure Brazil will sit back, just like they did in the Copa America final, and if they do, then why should we go and expose ourselves if they're not going to attack? We'll be pushing forward but we'll be doing it patiently and we'll be ready for them when they try and hit us on the break.

Would you say Brazil would like to have some of your players on their side?
Absolutely. Who wouldn't want to have Messi, Riquelme, Aguero or Mascherano? And that's just to name a few. They've got some great players too, though, like Ronaldinho, Pato, Marcelo, and Anderson, and they've got our respect.

What is your prediction for the game?
We're going to beat them, I'm sure of that. We're mentally prepared to go out and do that. We came here to win the gold medal and that's our dream.

To think that when you retired you said you would never coach. Whatever happened to the old Batista?
Well, that was all a long time ago (laughs). A lot of things have happened since then and I'm absolutely delighted to be where I am today. My only hope is that things turn out the way we want them to.