Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is writing a column in Spanish newspaper El Mundo following the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland, which kick off on Saturday. Here we translate his first column….
Welcome to Euro 2008 and welcome to this column. As you may already know, fortunately, my professional obligations don’t allow me contributions of this type during the football season. Therefore, I will take advantage of this opportunity that EL MUNDO is offering me to share across some of my ideas about football in general and this Euro Cup in particular.
In the first place, I will let you know that my idea of good football and my concept of a good team relies on team order, balance on defense and cutting-edge on attack. To accomplish this you need players who are able to read the game well, who know when it’s time to play short or long passes, when you need to attack through the middle or down the flank, when it’s time to keep posession of the ball or when you need to start a quick counter-attack. I’m talking about real footballers, who will take advantage of their abilities to help the team win by playing as well as possible, who will be able to adapt when needed, who will try to impose their style of play, but who can also vary that style for the benefit of the team and to help it win games.
In today’s football, cutting-edge in attack is becoming more and more of a collective or tactical effort, depends more on a group of players or positioning on the pitch than on a single player. This is why a skillfull player tends to draw our attention more often, but we must be able to distinguish between the skillfull player and the cutting-edge player.
The first will dribble or dwell on the ball showing his technical ability; the second wins matches, is a constant threat to opposing teams and the solution for his team-mates when they can’t find their way. With a single touch he can find an open team-mate, he can find an open space when and where he should, makes an effort to do things the right way and always tries to do what will benefit his team the most. In other words, he will play good football in order to win matches, not just for show.
After this explanation, I will give you my views on this competition as an active manager, something that will give you a different perspective on this Euro Cup. I think that for a group of footballers who’ve played so many games during the season ‘“ 59 in the case of Liverpool players- , there are too many games in the qualifying stages.
In order to give an opportunity to all the national teams, there are many games that, beforehand, don’t create a lot of interest. As a player or a manager it doesn’t make much sense to coming into a match thinking how many goals they will score on me and leave happy if it’s not more than three. And as a fan it’s not fun when they opposing team’s level is not the adequate. Besides, this accumulation of effort during the season increases the risk of injury. Ryan Babel just got injured for five or six weeks, Cannavaro won’t be able to play the Euro as well. And that’s just scratching the surface.
In terms of the chances for the different teams, I believe that we are all betting on the same teams with little variation. Portugal has the potential and a favourable draw. Germany looks the strongest on their group, not forgetting Croatia. Group C, by far, is the most difficult since the likes of France, Holland or Italy are capable of topping the group. The strength on that group will eventually be bad for Spain, which is the team that most of us are interested in, because if they are able to go through, which they will, they will have to face a very strong team regardless of which one it is.
Despite all this we are all confident that this will finally be the year that at last we take advantage of all the talent and potential that we possess and that we can achieve that sought ‘“after title that we all been waiting for.
Good luck and good football.