The head coaches and technical directors of all 211 member associations, as well as the technical experts of all six confederations, have been invited by FIFA to the FIFA Football Conference to be held in London on 23 September 2018. So far, over 150 coaches, including FIFA World Cup winner Didier Deschamps (France), Zlatko Dalic (Croatia), Roberto Martínez (Belgium), Gareth Southgate (England), Tite (Brazil), Stanislav Cherchesov (Russia), Joachim Low (Germany), Hajime Moriyasu (Japan), Aliou Cisse (Senegal) and Luis Enrique (Spain) are expected to attend.
Ahead of the conference, the head of FIFA’s Technical Study Group (TSG) and 1994 FIFA World Cup-winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira shares his initial views about the technical and tactical outcome of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will be one of the key points on the agenda of the one-day London event.
You coached at six World Cups, though the action on the pitch has never been analysed in such depth as it will be at the London conference that follows Russia 2018. How can your colleagues from participating and non-participating countries benefit from what comes out of the conference?
It’s a great initiative to bring all these great footballing names together. The conference is a unique occasion and we have to make the absolute most of it. Sharing information and experiences is vital to the continued development of football, and there is no one better than coaches when it comes to giving opinions. The World Cup is always an opportunity to assess the state of football and new trends, the new things that come in and should be used again. The people who took part in it have something to say about the problems they faced, the things that worked and what they felt and saw. And the people who weren’t there can pick up that information. It’s a really valuable dialogue because everyone benefits from it.
If you had to choose one football memory from Russia, what would it be?
You’ve got me there (laughs). There were a few but I’d have to say the final. And I’m not just talking about the match itself but arriving at the stadium, the whole build-up show, the teams walking out onto the pitch, the pre-match formalities, the music, the fans, all the photographers in action. I love all that ritual and it shows that the World Cup and the buzz that comes with it really is different. There wasn’t a goal or a move in particular. It was that sense of occasion that we’ll never forget, and the game and the presenting of the trophy. That’s what I’ll remember. Obviously there’s a cultural side to it, the tourism and the food, but the whole footballing dimension is unique. I took part in eight World Cups, was involved in two finals, and I’ve seen how it’s grown. It gives me goosebumps.
Before Russia 2018 you said, “It’s talent that makes the difference”. Is that how it turned out?
That’s never going to change. You can’t win the World Cup with talent alone, but you can’t win it without talent either, as long as they play for the team. They say that teams win trophies and that talented players win matches. They can do the unexpected, the out of the ordinary. There was a lot of expectation surrounding [Lionel] Messi and Neymar, but unfortunately they couldn’t do everything the fans were hoping for from them. Cristiano Ronaldo is a different kind of talent and he really applies himself in a technical sense. Mbappe showed he was a great player, while Belgium had Hazard, who was the outstanding player of the competition along with Modric. Hazard was also in with a very good shout of being named player of the tournament, but Modric got the nod for his all-round work.
What’s the main lesson learned from Russia 2018 from a technical and tactical point of view?
You can’t compare different eras of the game and say, “it was a more beautiful game before” or “it was more tactical before”. There’s no such thing as more beautiful football or uglier football. Football changes. Possession of the ball is no longer a must. The teams were more concerned with playing in smaller spaces, in staying compact and getting into the opposition half as quickly as possible, and they won as teams, with individual talents playing for their teams.
Having worked in the Middle East, are you particularly looking forward to Qatar?
The story starts all over again now, with the qualifiers and a long road ahead. It’s a four-year cycle and if you’re involved in it, it can be a long process. Teams have already begun their preparations and embarked on processes of renewal. France have a solid foundation and Brazil are going to bring in new players. It’s a challenge and a fascinating task for coaches. I’m going to keep pushing for football to continue its development, and there’s no doubt that Qatar will get its preparations right and that the stadiums will be fantastic. Every World Cup has something special about it. It’s going to be interesting to see how the fans are going to interact in a far smaller country than at previous World Cups. They’ll also have the chance to visit the surrounding region. It’s going to be a party and it’s going to be fun.