Thursday 06 June 2019, 13:40

Berizzo: Paraguay must use possession well

  • New Paraguay coach Eduardo Berizzo chats to

  • He wants them to adopt a new, attacking style of play

  • Berizzo discusses the Copa America and Qatar 2022

At the age of 49, Eduardo Berizzo has taken on his first job as an international head coach. Paraguay, after failing to reach back-to-back FIFA World Cups™, have charged the Argentinian with guiding them to Qatar 2022.

Following spells with Celta Vigo, Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao and a successful battle with cancer, the man they call ‘El Toto’ is ready to lead his side into the South American qualifiers, which he experienced as an assistant to Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa in the South Africa 2010 preliminaries. spoke to Berizzo about his challenge, the style of play he wants from Paraguay and the upcoming Copa America.

What prompted you to accept Paraguay’s offer at this stage of your career? I’ve always liked the idea of coaching a national team and experiencing the World Cup qualifiers. Then, when we got talking, there was a lot of common ground in terms of the plan and the job that needed to be done. Obviously I’ve assessed the potential of the players. We can work on the plan that we’ve got and with that will come the belief that we can achieve success. As a whole, that’s what’s encouraged me to come here.

What can you take from working with Bielsa that will help you as a head coach? The experience I gained from the whole process through to South Africa 2010, all the planning we put into qualifying for that World Cup. Coaching a national team involves doing a lot of analysis off the pitch. You have to watch players on video or in person, but in doing so you have to picture how they might fit into the type of game you want to play.

What’s your first challenge with Paraguay? To adopt a style of play, which is going to involve working day in, day out, effort, thought, planning and not letting up for a single day over the next four years. We need to maintain that energy over time, which is going to take a huge effort from everyone, a big investment on our part, and the commitment of the players. I’m convinced we’re capable of doing that.

In selecting your squad for the Copa America, how much did the tournament itself come into your thinking and how much the qualifiers for Qatar 2022? We’ve got the Copa America coming up right now, but we’re not taking our eye off what’s on the horizon. It’s very important to have this time to work with the players so that our vision of the football we want to play can come together, because you get very little preparation time with the FIFA friendly matchdays. That’s why it’s absolutely essential to make the most of this time, while also keeping the qualifiers for Qatar in mind.

Paraguay at the Copa America
16 JuneParaguay-QatarRio de Janeiro
19 JuneArgentina-ParaguayBelo Horizonte
23 JuneColombia-ParaguaySalvador

Oscar Cardozo is 35 now. What’s his role going to be at the start of this process? He’s the highest-scoring Paraguay player who’s still active. I’ll be monitoring players based on how they’re playing right now. Given Oscar’s experience with La Albirroja and the way he’s playing at the moment, we believe he still has a lot to offer.

Which young players have impressed you so far and why? Without mentioning any names, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve seen in the Paraguayan league. Though the weather’s been hot, the pace of play was high and that’s down to the players here. That’s what they’re all about. They’re brave when they play and they’re strong with it too.

In terms of results, what objectives are you hoping to achieve at the Copa America? My first objective in that sense is to come up with a style of play. To achieve that we have to strengthen the team. The big dream is to take Paraguay back to the World Cup, though I do believe that this is a side that can do very well on the road to Qatar. That’s why the first thing we need to do is get our fans board by showing commitment and putting effort in. And then we need to go and show all that on the pitch through our style of play.

What is that style going to be? Get control of the ball, be a team that uses possession to take the game to the opposition and which works hard to win it back. To do that you need a lot of movement and have a lot of passing options. I want my team to use the ball. In the modern game you have to get up and down the pitch a lot and make the transition from defence to attack successfully. That’s what we’ll be working on in the lead-up to the Copa America.

With a few exceptions, such as Gerardo Martino’s spell in charge, Paraguay have always achieved their best results playing a direct game. Has that come into your thinking at all? The approach I’m going to take is based on what the players have to offer, and the ones we’ve got in the team today can play the ball, control it and keep it. Obviously, the reason for playing that direct game in the past was the aerial strength of the forwards. I think, though, that we should be able – without turning our backs on that strength – to play the ball around more using very gifted players in midfield and up front. In linking up with each other, passing the ball, and building attacks, they can play entertaining football.