News Column

World Cup Draws: Coaches, Players Offer Insights

December 6, 2013

Associated Press

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP) Coaches and players were quick to react to Friday's World Cup draw. The following is a selection.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said he didn't think Brazil was given an easy group and praised Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. We can't worry too far ahead past the group stage," Scolari said. "If you start thinking about the second round you forget about the teams in the first round, which are important. We have worry about these teams first."

Spain's Vincent del Bosque told Spanish television: "We can't say we were handed an easy draw. It's a complicated group with tough sides. It's going to be difficult." On Chile, the only team Del Bosque had mentioned he would not like to meet in the group stage: "Their style of play is very impressive, they make it very uncomfortable for opponents. They are very hard working, a very difficult team."

On the Netherlands: "They've changed their makeup from the midfield to the back line, but they still have dangerous players up front in Robin van Persie, Sneijder, and Robben." On the opening game against Netherlands, he said: "We have to be prepared from day one. When you are drawn against a team that maybe isn't quite a top rival it affects our preparation and we're not always ready, maybe, psychologically. That won't be the case here."

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said: "We have to play the world champion, we have to play Australia who we have never beaten and Chile was 3-0 up recently against Colombia before it ended 3-3, so that is not a weak team. The opponents are tough, but for the playing conditions it is not too bad." Van Gaal noted that if the Netherlands progress from the group stage they will have to play one of the team's from the group headed by host nation Brazil. That is a tough group and you travel north and the playing conditions get worse."

"It could have been more complicated," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "Another good thing is that we won't play in the northern regions, where the temperatures and the level of humidity are very high and the distances are very long. We stay more or less in the same area, which is not too far from our training camp. It's a rather good news."

"When you start a competition, the most important thing is to win the first match," Deschamps told TMC television. "We open against Honduras and not Switzerland, the seeded team, so that's an ideal situation. It's a favorable order of play but only if we win this first match.

"It's a bizarre draw but nevertheless interesting for us," French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet said. "We should never make any assumption about the quality of a group. Those are good teams. We will meet them at a period when we'll have to reach the maximum of our potential."

England coach Roy Hodgson told the BBC: "It's a tough group, there's no doubt about that. In Italy and Uruguay it's almost as though we have got two number one seeds in our group. We know how good Italy are because we lost to them in the quarterfinals at the Euros. The game is going to be tough from a climate point of view for both teams. We're both in the same boat.

"There were not going to be many scenarios where we were going to be jumping for joy. It doesn't surprise us. I suppose one positive is that we have only got one long trip then the other two are in the same neck of the woods."

"We have a difficult group maybe the most difficult but usually when we come up against difficulty we arrive prepared," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told RAI state TV. "We're going to have to sweat it out. They're going to be some very interesting matches. Italy beat both Uruguay and England in penalty shootouts in their last official meetings.

"It isn't so much who we play, but how we'll play them," Prandelli said, adding that the difficult travel schedule and midday matches will also play a role. "The squad will need to be in great physical condition and have confidence in that area. Our preparation will take into account these difficulties."

Germany coach Joachim Loew said dealing with the humidity and heat will be the biggest challenge. "I accept it as it is, we have no influence anyway. The main thing is that we know where we'll play and we can take the next step in preparing for this World Cup," Loew said.

"We have to get used to the humidity and the heat, it's going to be incredibly humid and hot."We must get used to it, in training and preparing." Our opponents are old friends, we played Ghana in 2010, we played Portugal at the 2012 Euro." German team officials had dinner with Klinsmann last night. "We have a very close relationship," said Loew, who was Klinsmann's assistant at home in 2006.

Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli said, "It's such a difficult group. We'll try to be as competitive as possible to give us a chance to reach the knockout stages. In the career of a coach, you know this is the path that you may have to take. So we have to prepare well.

"After getting out of the war of the group stage, you don't move on to an easier fate with having to face winners of Group A."

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, speaking to German TV, in German, said: "Football produces crazy stories ... Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo, Ghana, which eliminated us the last two times. It couldn't have been a tougher group.

"But we have the best year in U.S. football behind us, our players are spread throughout the big leagues, in the Premiere League, in the Bundesliga, in Italy.

"It's a hammer group but we can manage. Germany has it better, travel-wise, because they have relatively short distances to travel and we have the biggest distance to cover of all teams. But we can't change it and we'll take it as is."

Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis was optimistic. "This is a tough group with tough teams all of them. But I am optimistic because we respond to challenges well. Any of the teams in this group can make the difference, so it definitely won't be easy. Our style of play generally remains the same. We are tough and we don't concede easily. I don't care how people describe our game or whether our style will be more defensive or offensive. We will play to make the last 16 and will fight for it as much as we can you can be sure about that."

"I have to say we were fortunate," Russia coach Fabio Capello told Italian state TV RAI. "But when you get to this point every match is dangerous. One good thing is that we won't play in northern Brazil."

"There's no big or small team in the World Cup finals," Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic told the website of the Algerian Football Federation. "In my eyes, Belgium is the group's favorite, all the more so since their players have played together for years (...) We will certainly not go to Brazil for sightseeing but to represent Algeria in a good light."

Croatia coach Niko Kovac: "Now that we are in such a hard group, then it is good that we are opening the World Cup against Brazil. It will be a great opening, tiny Croatia against great Brazil. Brazil will be a special motive for my players, it is now important for us to get ready the best we can, to play good football and satisfy our fans in Croatia. We will do everything to prepare for the opener against the hosts. This will be a chance for our little country to represent itself in front of a wide audience. We have half a year to prepare for something good. We are here to play nice football with a lot of passion. If that happens, we will go a long way in the tournament"

Bosnia coach Saft Susic: "Argentine is the favorite in the group. We will fight for the second place with Nigeria. I don't know much about Iran and Nigeria, but I know that Nigeria played frequently at the World Cups and we should not underestimate Iran. We have good chances of making it to the second round. When I see whom Croatia has drawn, we have to be happy with our group."

Volker Finke, Cameroon coach, said it wpould also be tough for his team to play in Manaus. "It's also a little bit of a problem to go in the north of Brazil in June. It's very, very hot and the climate maybe is difficult, but this is also difficult for both. We have to think again, maybe change a little bit the program because for me it was surprising to go to the north. But it's a draw, we have to follow. All the (Cameroon) players are in Europe and this is why it is also difficult to go here in this climate. It is very hot and we have to think about it"

Ottmar Hitzfeld, Switzerland coach, said his team might change its training camp from near Sao Paulo because of its travel schedule, which includes Manaus? "Yes, we have to think about it. We must adapt to the climatic conditions." On facing France, he said, "there's one name, Franck Ribery, who can make the difference. Apart from him, there are other players who are very strong and we saw them have an exceptional game against Ukraine. The offensive strength was impressive."

Ange Postecoglu, Australia coach, said his might be the toughest group: "Probably. The Netherlands and Chile could have been easily seeded if you look at their qualification. It is a tough group but seriously it's an exciting group. There's going to be some fantastic football played. Nobody will give us much chance in this group and that's an opportunity in itself."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Original headline: What they said about the World Cup draw

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Source: Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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