Alejandro Sabella is looking relaxed. He may well be a bundle of nerves on the inside, but the expression on his face and the tone of his voice are conspicuously free from the jitters you might expect in the run-up to such a big match.
Faced with the challenge of taking on a mighty Germany side in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ Final, Sabella has the necessary worldliness to keep the ship steady. Granted, this is his first post as an international head coach. However, he knows what it feels like to lift silverware in Brazil, having clinched the Copa Libertadores back in 2009 with Estudiantes, with whom he famously went on to give Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona a real run for their money in that year’s FIFA Club World Cup final.
The 59-year-old will doubtless draw on all his experience as he seeks to instil a sense of calm into his players from the sidelines. On the pitch, meanwhile, his team seem to have finally found the perfect balance – something they will need if they are to come out on top, as Sabella told FIFA in an exclusive interview just hours before the fight for the Trophy kicks off at the Maracana.
What’s your take on Germany?
They’re a great team. On top of the solidity and spirit that have always characterised German football, they have some players with a South American touch. What’s more, they have a settled style of play that’s been in place for many years, which they are constantly refining. You could say they are fearsome opponents.
Even so, how do you explain their 7-1 thrashing of Brazil?
It was the sort of match that comes about once in a blue moon. There isn’t such a big gulf in quality between Brazil and Germany, who are two superpowers: it was a freak result. Having already been hit hard psychologically by Neymar’s injury, conceding an early goal was a big blow for Brazil and Germany capitalised.
Do your chances of prevailing in the Final hinge more on what Lionel Messi does, or on the entire team’s efforts?
The team and individuals feed off one another, creating a virtuous circle. A solid team provides a launch pad for individuals to fire on all cylinders. But obviously Leo is the best player in the world, so it’s always important for him to thrive.
Do you think Messi needs to win the trophy to write his name in the history books?
He’s already in the history books. Anything else he does will only add to his achievements, but he’s already up there with the greats.
How are the team shaping up mentally and in footballing terms ahead of the match?
The mood is positive and they’re brimming with confidence. They have a winning mentality, but they know they’re up against top-class opponents. We need to produce a perfect performance to beat them.
What would lifting the Trophy, at the Maracana no less, mean to you?
Professionally speaking, it would be hugely satisfying, in part because it would bring a lot of joy to the people back home after such a long wait. In sporting terms, it would be the ultimate glory.