Subeldia plotting Paraguay's revival 

  • Ruben Subeldia took charge of Paraguay women's national team in January 2018

  • Experienced coach led Paraguay to a FIFA Futsal World Cup and two women's handball world championships

  • He shares his four guiding principles

When Ruben Subeldia took charge of Paraguay’s national women’s football team in early January, he did so with a very clear objective in mind: to revitalise a team that had gone three years without playing a game and prepare it for the 2018 Copa America Femenina in Chile.

The tournament, which kicks off on 4 April, doubles up as the South American qualifiers for both the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ and the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020, competitions that La Albirroja have yet to grace.

Though vastly experienced on the domestic women’s football scene, Subeldia has put his coaching expertise to good use in other sports, having steered Paraguay to a FIFA Futsal World Cup and two women’s handball world championships.

“I was about 19 when I realised that I wasn’t going to make it as a professional footballer and decided to go into sports teaching instead,” he told FIFA.com. “I was looking to fulfil my dream in another way and it’s been a very rewarding journey so far.”

The Subeldia fact file:

  • Born on 11 April 1961

  • A qualified Physical Education teacher, he holds a degree in Educational Sciences

  • Handball: took the Paraguay senior women’s team to the 2007 and 2013 World Championships, where they placed 23rd and 21st respectively. Guided them to gold at the 2013 Bolivarian Games

  • Futsal: steered Paraguay to the FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil 2008, where they finished seventh

  • Women’s football: after lifting several domestic titles, he won the 2018 Copa Libertadores Femenina with Sportivo Limpeno, the first Paraguayan side to win the competition

The four ‘Ps’ “In every team I work according to four guiding principles that all begin with the letter ‘P’,” he continued. “From them stem other principles that I try to instil in my players, passing a philosophy on to them that then translates into a style of play.”

  1. Posición (“position”): “The first is your position on the pitch. It’s crucial and it gives you the balance you need to achieve consistency between knowing and then doing.”

  2. Posesión (“possession”): “Next is possession. A lot of us can have the ball without making much happen with it, so you have to bring in an objective.”

  3. Profundidad (“depth”): “Then comes depth; there’s no point in keeping possession if you don’t have that objective, which is to play with depth.”

  4. Presión (“pressure”): “If we lose possession of the ball, you have to press to win it back. The work we do on this is all linked together, because every principle connects with each other.”

How does he apply his philosophy to the national team? “We’re looking to restore a sense of identity to Paraguayan women’s football. I believe in a passing game that’s not as direct as the football they play here. I believe in playing with the ball and not against the ball. If we can do that, then people will sit up and take notice of us. And Paraguay needs that to avoid being pigeonholed.”

A new challenge Subeldia is confident he can get his message across to the squad he has selected for the Copa America. Among its most prominent figures are several of the players with whom he won the Libertadores in 2016 and the core of the U-20 side that finished runners-up at the recent South American Championships, who will also be featuring at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018.

“We hope that the blend we have will allow different energies to flow and that we’ll start to change the fortunes of the senior national team,” he said.

But when it comes to objectives, Subeldia knows there is no such thing as guaranteed success: “I know we want to win but that shouldn’t make us lose sight of our real objectives. We have to look at what we have and then identify our goals.”

And what are those objectives? “The first is to return to the FIFA Ranking,” replied the coach of a side that has not appeared in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking since March 2016 due to its lack of games.

“The other is to make the last four of the Copa America and to then keep on fighting,” he added.

The coach knows the task will not be an easy one, even if Colombia are the only side in their group with previous World Cup experience. Completing the section are Chile, Peru and Uruguay, whom the Paraguayans have beaten twice this year, in their first matches since September 2014.

“Maybe we’ll earn the right to dream,” he continued. “You prepare for victory, and a victory for us would be to reach the World Cup and the Olympics. We’re looking for the right way to achieve that.”

Did you know? There are a number of qualification places at stake at the Copa America Femenina Chile 2018:

  • Two and a half slots for France 2019 (the top two qualify automatically for next year’s world finals, while the third-placed side advances to a play-off against the team finishing fourth in the CONCACAF Zone)

  • Two berths for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020

  • Four places at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima