Parreira on Russia 2018: “Possession of the ball is no longer a must”


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, Zlatko Dalić (Croatia), Roberto Martínez (Belgium), Gareth Southgate (England), Tite (Brazil), Stanislav Cherchesov (Russia), Joachim Löw (Germany), Hajime Moriyasu (Japan), Aliou Cissé (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.

“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.”

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. Mbappé showed he was a great player, while Belgium had Hazard, who was the outstanding player of the competition along with Modrić. Hazard was also in with a very good shout of being named player of the tournament, but Modrić 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.