World Soccer: Can you beat Mexico in the opening game?
Carlos Alberto Parreira: If we learn to exploit playing at home, we are going to be at an advantage. If you look back at the last World Cups, the opening match has always been pretty boring. The home team is usually under a lot of pressure, the expectation is high. So I have been telling my players that, on June 11, I want them all to be relaxed on the pitch and to go out and savour the occasion. I cannot put pressure on them.
How important is the preparation for you?
It’s vital. We need to be physically and mentally very strong, we have to believe in ourselves. The winner of the game against Mexico will take a huge step towards qualifying for the next round so we will be working hard and giving a lot towards this game.
Will the vuvuzela be a weapon in your armoury?
I do believe this is one of the things that will help us, playing at home with the support of our people and the fans will play a very, very important part. This will also form part of our discussion with the players. We want the opponents to feel the heat. Every time I walk in the street, or I go to the shops, or even out for dinner, people are saying to me: “Coach, make us proud.” No matter what the result, when we finish this World Cup the people of this country should be proud of the achievements of their team. This is my message, let’s make the country proud by being the best we can be.
Is Aaron Mokoena the right person to lead Bafana Bafana at the World Cup?
He is the most-capped player in the national team, so this boy must have something good because he would not have played this many games if he did not provide something to the team. We cannot afford to use players at the World Cup who have very little experience in the national team. You need players who have been through these situations before. Mokoena has this experience and he can help the younger players.
What are South Africa’s realistic chances?
When I accept a job like this, it is because I am a dreamer. I always look on the positive side. I believe in the good things. I am a very optimistic person. I have been in football for 40 years and seen so many unexpected results. I have been in so many games where you do not believe that result was true. I have to believe we can do it and for the first time see South Africa in the next round. But we have to be realistic, it’s going to be a huge challenge and we will be the surprise team of the World Cup if we can do it. I believe in that. We have the possibility, so let’s believe in ourselves and fight for it. Don’t think about the difficulties but about being in the next round.
Is there an advantage of having no pressure because public expectation is so low?
Low? I don’t agree. I was crossing the street and some one shouted from across the road: “Coach Parreira, we want the Cup here.” I don’t think the expectation is so low. It is really high!
How are you going to approach the matches?
We don’t have the strength of the other African countries, like Nigeria and Senegal, so we have to go with our technique. Having the ball and [playing with] good organisation; cutting down the space, covering. I believe in zonal marking, closing down the side where the ball is and pressuring the opposition when they have possession. Create space for the counter-attack and do it with speed. But most importantly, make sure you are organised and use the ball well. That is absolutely vital. You can’t just give it away, as we usually see in the local league. It would be useless to just kick the ball into the other team’s territory. We have to look to make trouble for them by keeping the ball on the ground. Passing the ball is the most effective thing a team can do. One of the best sayings in coaching is that “a rapid pass with accuracy is one of the most devastating weapons”. I firmly believe it.