Monday 29 October 2018, 23:13

Osorio has big plans for Paraguay

  • Paraguay’s newly appointed coach speaks exclusively to

  • He explains his reasons for accepting the job and his goals

  • He also has a message for former employers Mexico

Juan Carlos Osorio is a busy man. Fresh from leading Mexico to the last 16 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, the Colombian has just accepted his second job as a national team coach, this time with Paraguay, who have not graced the world finals since South Africa 2010.

In giving one of his first exclusive interviews since his appointment in early September, the 57-year-old spoke to about his reasons for accepting what Paraguay had to offer, his coaching philosophy and what he expects from his players.

Having just vacated Mexico job, he also had a message to give the Mexico fans: “I’d like to thank them all, and the Mexican FA’s officials and players, who had faith in, believed in and respected the way we work. It was an unforgettable experience and it’s made me a better coach.” Juan Carlos, how are you approaching this new phase in your career on a personal level? Juan Carlos Osorio: When I was at the World Cup, I found I was enjoying it so much on a day-to-day level that I wondered if I shouldn’t go back to club management. But I realised in Russia that it’s a wonderful thing to be able to compete at that level. So I thought about looking for a national team where we’d have the chance of going to the World Cup, but where we’d also be likely to have that day-to-day experience.

And the Paraguay job gives you that? In South America, the emphasis is on micro cycles. You train from Monday to Thursday with the players before they go back to their clubs to play at the weekend. That’s the way Paraguay operates. There are ten professional teams in Asuncion, so we’ll be working with a group of players who’ll be able to familiarise themselves with the way we work. At the same time, we’ll also try to improve their game through training and by competing with the best the country has to offer.

What other aspects of Paraguayan football appealed to you? There were specific football-related things like a pool featuring a lot of left-footed players. That’s very important to us, especially in natural midfield and defensive positions. There are two or three players, who can play as left-sided central defenders or full-backs, and it’s the same in midfield and up front, in key positions such as out wide. We also took into consideration how good they are in the air, an asset that’s becoming increasingly important in the game, as the number of goals scored from set-pieces at the last two World Cups shows.

In one of your first press conferences, you spoke about bringing the fans closer to the national team. Then you opened up training sessions to the public. What are you looking to achieve? It’s our duty to take the national team out to the fans. If the people of Paraguay feel that the team is accessible, then that’s only going to be good for everyone. Football is a team game and it was, is and will always be a sport of opinions. It’s our duty to be open to all those opinions and to analyse and debate them.

Judging by what you said at that press conference, that includes all the clubs as well. Yes, we don’t want a team that’s restricted to just one club or just one city. They all need to believe that they can provide players to the national team. And it’s important that they understand what we’re doing too, because sometimes they don’t release players because they think that national team duties on international breaks only adds to their workload. They have to understand that, in terms of our methodology, we’re looking to develop their ability to make better and faster decisions on the pitch. And that’s something that their clubs can also benefit from.

What is Paraguay hoping to achieve at the 2019 Copa America? To go as far as possible because they’re going to be competing with the best, such as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and Chile. It’s a huge challenge and an outstanding opportunity to test ourselves at the highest level.

Mexico's national football team coach, Juan Carlos Osorio of Colombia, meets with footballers 

Then comes the next World Cup qualifying campaign. What are your concerns when it comes to preparing for the Qatar 2022 preliminaries? The difficulty we’re going to have is finding international competition. We’d like to play the European teams that were among the top eight at the World Cup, like Croatia and Sweden, but that’s going to be tough with the new European Nations League. The idea is to familiarise ourselves with the type of competition you come up against at a World Cup, which is where we want to go.

After coaching Mexico and given your previous experience in South America, what differences can you see between the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL qualifying competitions? The standard of the South American qualifiers is very high, thanks to the large number of players competing in Europe’s top leagues. My feeling is that the country with the largest number of players in the leading clubs in those four or five top leagues will have the advantage.

With the players Paraguay have at their disposal, do you think you’ll be able to rotate them in the same way you did with Mexico? There will always be a chance for different players and formations without us turning our back on the aims we’re hoping to achieve and for which we train. I hope people will see that against the different teams we face. My view is that every match and opponent brings with it different challenges and ways of playing.

What type of team would you like the people of Paraguay to see? One that doesn’t give up on the style of play for which it’s been known for many years and which has brought them good results in that time, with players full of passion and personality. And I want the team to have a Plan B whenever possible. I want people to see that possession football is another option open to Paraguay.