In your view, which teams will start out as favourites for the 2006 World Cup in Germany? Any
Based on our experience of the Confederations Cup, we see that Brazil and Argentina are ahead in terms of quality and how to deal with certain moments in the game. Other big teams like England, France and Italy are strong and capable of making a difference. We believe that Ukraine could be a surprise because Oleg Blokhin has developed them very well over recent years. Pre-tournament, it looks like Brazil and Argentina are up to the challenge, but we will see.
What do you think about the UEFA Champions League?
The UEFA Champions League sets the tone for football because you have the best players in the world performing in the competition and they put their stamp on it. Top coaches are also there and they influence how the game is developed - they lead the trends because they are working at it every day. If you look at the big teams there, they are international teams put together from many different countries. The UEFA Champions League coaches/ players definitely lead the way.
How do you handle pressure from the media?
I have no problem with pressure -everybody talks about it, but it is not a physical thing and therefore does not create a problem for me. As a player, the higher the expectations, the more 1 liked it; the bigger the game, the more I liked it. Maybe that is why I always pushed myself in big tournaments. In every tournament, I was right there, at the right time, because I felt those special moments had to be grabbed. Even as a national coach, I accept the challenge and the responsibility. Being in control, you can set the limits and decide how much you do yourself, for example with the media. It is not easy for the media today - their focus is on selling and not just information. We have to find our way to deal with it - for sure, we will not change it. But, as I said, I have no trouble dealing with the pressure - I am used to it.
Tactically, what do you expect the trends to be during the World Cup?
As with the UEFA Champions League, the World Cup will emphasise compact play, less and less space, team efficiency. Even with teams well prepared, including physically, it will often be down to the mental aspect and who can make a difference. A set-play, a counter, an individual effort can be decisive. The transition becomes more and more important. Reaction speed is vital - players must be alert and in peak physical condition. Even in training, this awareness must be developed.
To what extent do you believe in using technology, psychologists, and fitness specialists as aids
for your team's preparation?
I think we will go in this direction more and more because it is not possible for a coach to be an expert in all these areas. You need to have a big staff who filter information and pass it down to you. You learn a lot from these experts - I profit a great deal from their input. In the past, the coach did everything -now you manage a big staff and a team. You could say that you are the manager of two teams. I try to communicate with the players directly, but if feel that certain things are better relayed by a third party, then I do it that way.
How do you deal with the stress of the job?
I am a workout fanatic. I train for an hour and a half every day and I play for a local amateur team. I swim, cycle, run, etc. I even went running in Montreux on the morning of the EURO 2008 draw in January. If you come up with a veterans' World Cup, I could maybe make a comeback as a player!
You were a great striker -to what extent has that background influenced your philosophy as a
It definitely has had an influence on my coaching philosophy because I am definitely more attack-minded than I might have been. To make sure I was not on the wrong track, I asked the national team coaching staff and the players if they agreed with my view. They accepted that it is our mentality
to put people under pressure, to be very physical, to be very dynamic and attack-orientated. We defined our style in discussions with the team. The key players, that is the leaders in the team, have a big influence on how we play, especially with so many youngsters in the squad. In my day, we were more playful, probably because we learned to play in the streets. Today's young players are more focused - they are planners. They are more calculating in their attitude towards their performance and careers than we were.
What has been your best moment in football so far?
There are so many personal memories that you carry around with you. A special moment for me was in 1994 when we played in South Africa. As the captain of Germany, I introduced my team-mates to Nelson Mandela and this is something that I will never forget. It is all those moments that prove that football is about so much more than just a result It goes so deep into the social and educational aspects of life. It helped me to develop as a young person. 1 learned languages, created a worldwide network of contacts - I would never have met my wife and lived in another continent if it had not been for football. I would never have had any of that without the game. Jurgen the player is now in the archives - it is my role as a coach, which now takes centre stage.
This article was first published in The Technician supplement of UEFA Direct and is reproduced with their permission.