Parrillo: Uruguay could finish first or last

14 Aug 2021
  • German Parrillo is one half of Uruguay’s coaching duo at Russia 2021

  • A member of La Celeste’s golden generation during his playing days

  • He speaks about the job, the team, their opponents and goals

The last time German Parrillo represented Uruguay at a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup™ was as a player at Dubai 2009, when he wore their armband. La Celeste were one of the leading teams in the world at the time and reached the semi-finals for the third time in five attempts.

“It feels like another life,” joked Parrillo to in his capacity as one half of the duo that will coach Uruguay at Russia 2021, the other being Leandro Ortiz. “I’ve spoken about it with Leandro. It feels weird to be back. Matias Cabrera is still playing. He was a team-mate of ours!” A member of Uruguay’s golden generation in his playing days, Parrillo was also around when the team’s fortunes slumped: “We finished runners-up in 2006, came third in 2007 and fourth in 2009, and then failed to qualify for 2011, 2013 and 2015. Then I got injured and retired.” A defender, he appeared at five Beach Soccer World Cups, playing 25 matches and scoring 11 goals.

Uruguay’s Germán Parrillo is seen in action during the FIFA Beach Soccer Dubai 2009. Photo: MANUEL QUEIMADELOS/beachsoccer

When asked why Uruguay had to wait fully ten years before reappearing on the big stage at Paraguay 2019, the 46-year-old replied: “We never found qualifying for World Cups easy and then, from 2011 onwards, the goals just dried up and the team grew old. “There weren’t many new players coming through, though we weren’t really looking for them either. We were criticised for that, which was understandable. Opposing teams got better too. They realised we weren’t as good as we once were and they started to beat us.

"We still competed and we never got hammered, but it was hard going for us and we lost confidence. We just stagnated, in every respect.” Parrillo went to Paraguay 2019 as a journalist: “It actually felt like I was there as a player. And I liked what I saw: there was a new generation and a talented squad. The standard never dipped when players came on and off, which is vital in this sport.” Uruguay proved a surprise package two years ago, reaching the quarter-finals, where they lost 3-2 to a combative Japan side. Heaping praise on his predecessor and former team-mate Miguel Aguirre Zabala, Parrillo said: “He brought a lot of new players through, with youngsters who can play modern beach soccer. They had a great World Cup.”

Germán Parrillo, coach of Uruguay’s Beach Soccer national team. Photo: AUF

Though Uruguay were clearly on the up, Parrillo did not accept the job straightaway when he was offered it last November. “I’d never dreamed of coaching the national team,” he explained. “Things just happened: I got injured, I retired, I coached a club (Malvin) and I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t entirely convinced. “If coaching a club is hard work, then imagine what a national team is like. There are so many decisions to make it can be overwhelming. If things work out, then great, but if they don’t… Working with someone else helps share the load, though, especially off the pitch. “The bar had been set high too. We were taking over a team that still hadn’t qualified. But we went for it all the same. I have to say, though, that it wasn’t until we beat Paraguay and qualified for the World Cup that l genuinely felt I was a Uruguay coach. I hadn’t achieved anything before that. Our first game in charge was the opening qualifier against Argentina.” Uruguay finished runners-up in the CONMEBOL qualifying competition behind Brazil. Asked if there are any conclusions he can draw from that for the World Cup, Parrillo said: “We’ve got the right attitude and focus for what lies ahead. I’ve got confidence in the players: they never think they’ve got a game won and they never give up if we’re losing. “For example, we never fell behind in a game until the semi-final against Paraguay, when we had a 2-0 lead and they turned it around near the end of the third period. It was a blow for the boys, but they reacted and won the game to qualify for the World Cup.”

Looking ahead to Russia 2021, Parrillo said: “The groups of four players that come on and off are pretty much at the same level, and rotations will be crucial in our opening match against Senegal. They’re a very physical team and had a great World Cup in 2019 too. We need to defend properly when they’re in possession and that can be tiring.” Uruguay’s next opponents will be Oman. “They’re the most similar team to us. They’ve got the same kind of balance and defensive set-up, and they’re physically similar too. We’re better than them technically and individually, though. They rely too much on their strengths as a team.”

Uruguay’s last group opponents are Portugal: “They’re always there or thereabouts and they always have new players, like the Martins brothers and Jordan. They’ve got the lot: tactics, technique and experience, and they can play beach soccer. They’re not unbeatable, though. I can see Uruguay matching them. I think it’ll be close.” With just days to go before Uruguay’s opener, Parrillo said he felt relaxed: “There’s so much to do that the World Cup almost crept up on me. With the pandemic, planning and preparing has not been easy. It’s caused a lot of uncertainty for everyone.” Turning his attention to objectives, he added: “We want to do even better than last time. I don’t know if that’s a lot or not much, but if we do that, we’ll then want the final and then the trophy itself. I’ve always said that Uruguay can go from one extreme to the other in this sport: we can lose every game and end up last, or we can beat everyone and be champions.”