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Q & A with Argentina's Marcelo Bielsa

Posted: Tuesday April 23, 2002 12:49 PM

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What do you think of the draw?
I'm happy we will have matches that are worth playing. One dreams all one's life of playing in the World Cup, and when it happens, it is better to do it against great teams. We play better against strong teams rather than weaker ones, who go out to defend more.

Why are you happy that Argentina are in such a strong group?
No team can be champions without demonstrating that they are better than the rest. If Argentina are considered favorites, I think it is a good idea that they have to demonstrate it right from the start. Everybody who follows soccer, professional players -- some good and others bad (as in my case) -- amateurs and fans celebrate a match against a team such as England in a World Cup as something of a classic, and it is a joy to play in it. The more spectators in the stadium, the better; the stronger the rival, the better; the more there is to play for, the better. I enjoy that.

Why did you not go to Busan for the draw?
I didn't see the point because I had no function there. One cannot participate, intervene, help or anything. The only difference would have been that instead of seeing it on TV in my home, I would have seen it live. But why travel halfway around the world and back for that?

What do you think of Argentina's group rivals?
Nigeria are a team with great players, but perhaps they depend too much on a player being able to dribble past three rivals to create danger. With England, their individual play is also more important. They have players like Owen, Beckham and Gerrard who give the game brilliance and elaboration. Sweden are a very direct team, less patient in their build-up, and with speed and surprise in attack.

How good are Argentina?
Our players have reached a high standard, which comes from playing regularly in strong leagues, and they are close to their top level. But we have to play better in the World Cup, otherwise there is no guarantee of success. A distinction of our team is that they still possess an amateur spirit, even though they are highly-paid professionals -- it is the same spirit that drew us to the game as kids.

Who are your key players?
I have never underestimated Juan Veron's importance to the team, but I also know that there are players who can replace him without deteriorating the collective function of the team, perhaps in different ways.

Why don't you play leading goalscorers Gabriel Batistuta and Hernan Crespo together?
I haven't ruled it out, but it is difficult to find a satisfactory end to the controversy. This team plays with three men up and a midfielder breaking just behind them so there is no room for two penalty-area players. The whole system would have to be changed. Why change a successful system?

Will you stay on as national team coach after the World Cup?
This does not depend on me exclusively. There is also the kind of offer the Argentinian FA make me, and our results. How can I talk about the future if it is all tied up with results, especially in Argentina? I know the rules of my profession and adapt. But in any case, I haven't made up my mind yet.

Who will win the World Cup?
If it is not to be Argentina then I cannot look beyond France. They are recognised as the No1 team in the world and that is justified by their results.

Would you rather go down in history as a 2002 World Cup winner or for your team's excellent play?
In a country where the most important thing is the result, I have to follow the norm. If I feel the same way, that does not matter. However, I believe there is no better way to gain success than by choosing to play good football.

 
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