The Antioquia coach Luis Fernando Suarezwho classified Costa Rica for the Qatar World Cupr after beating in the playoffs New Zealand He is already totally focused on what his participation in the great event will be.
The strategist knows that being located in the so-called “group of death”, next to two world champions like Spain and Germany, and a Japan that has been progressing in its football, It will not be an easy situation to overcome.
However, this challenge does not scare him. On the contrary, it motivates him. To this is added that he will have the support of Colombians due to being the only representative, in sports, who will try to put the country’s name on high with his management in this championship.
With his classification, he became the second national coach with the most World Cups directed, along with Hernán Darío “Bolillo” Gómez.
Suárez reached his third World Cup date after sitting on the bench selected as those of Ecuador, in 2006, and in Honduras, in 2014. Now, the man from Antioquia repeats in the maximum appointment with the Costa Rican team, in a challenge and an objective that for him had become an obsession.
The technician spoke with EL COLOMBIANO about his plans, the preparation for the World Cup and also referred to the new coach of the Colombia National Team, Nestor Lorenzo. He also did not miss the opportunity to talk about the title of Atlético Nacional, a team with which he was also champion as coach in 1999.
The playoffs were left behind, now what follows is the World Cup…
“Yes, today I am aware of what we are playing for, which means the representation of a country in a World Cup that will be very particular because it takes place on a totally different date than usual (from November 21 to December 18). Also, in an exotic country, but with the demands that must be met when representing and being selected to defend a nation. The responsibility and commitment are great, the pressure immense. We have to prepare very well and be very aware that when we arrive we have to have everything clear to face those first three games of our group”.
How was the experience in Qatar during the playoffs?
“We have no complaints about the hotel, or the pitch, or the stadium, everything is in perfect condition. The only problem was the time change, which at a certain point became difficult. We somehow avoided it by always training very late. We even let the group rest until late in the morning. That was the only thing, but when the match took place, which was at 9pm Qatar time, it was noon in Costa Rica so we were wide awake. We had no problem in any way. In the World Cup we will have all the conditions to avoid problems”.
Since when do you plan to be in Qatar for the start of the World Cup?
“In Costa Rica they are thinking of finishing the League at the beginning of November, like on the 5th, and we want to travel immediately, initially to Europe where we have two options, one Turkey and the other France. There we will make a camp and we will settle down with the possibility of some friendly matches. On November 17 or so we will be traveling to Qatar, because the first match will be on the 23rd against Spain”.
How to face the most complicated group of the World Cup with two world champions and Japan?
“I am in the process of studying. I am aware of the difficulty that these selections present. It is already easy to talk about Spain and Germany for everything they have done in their history. Japan should also be recognized for its progress. They are going to be three very difficult rivals. My obligation is for each of the Costa Rican players to know which teams they are going to face, against which players, what individuals they have, what their collective strengths are and also their weaknesses. We are going to find a way for each one of them to find out about it, even before they start training. That is our obligation, we must play those three games first in mind”.
With which performance would you be satisfied?
“The commitment is very high, not only because of what we are going to face but because in Costa Rica people are waiting for something similar, or better, to what Jorge Luis (Pinto) did, who set a very high bar in Brazil 2014 (fourth end)”.
You are not only going to have Costa Rica making strength but also Colombia that did not qualify for the World Cup…
“That’s nice and that’s where I get the most strengths from, because if there’s something that moves me to do things correctly, it’s everything I’ve received from Colombians. It has been spectacular and special. I have to thank, first of all, the Costa Ricans because they have really been an unconditional support, but the Colombian thing is very special because almost everyone saw the playoff game and suffered with us and that has given me much more strength to seek to do things right”.
Colombians in Brazil also accompanied Pinto in that excellent campaign…
“That creates even more pressure, but it doesn’t matter, it’s worth doing for them.”
How do you analyze the arrival of Néstor Lorenzo to the Colombian National Team?
“I hope for the best, that there is a job well done by him and all of us Colombian coaches. One cannot think that Néstor Lorenzo is going to arrive and change everything overnight. The idea is that we have a constructive thought and accompaniment, where each one does his part so that the situation improves. In that sense, we have to be involved all the footballers, coaches, leaders and the press, who must also push forward. I wish all the best to Professor Lorenzo. Hopefully things go well for him and he has good fortune.”
Do you think he has an advantage because he already knows the Colombian player?
“The one who knows him seems to me to be good, that is one of the needs and obligations of the coach, especially if he is a foreigner. In that sense, it is an advantage for him to know how the Colombian thinks, it is a good step forward. What I notice is that the players who have worked with him copy him and that is also important and interesting”.
Why have you not been able to direct the Colombian National Team?
“Surely I have been busy with other things and afterwards, the possibilities left by the other technicians have been minimal for one, because, for example, Pekerman had eight spectacular years and in that time you couldn’t think of anything different. These are football circumstances that you have to know how to assimilate and are very normal within this sport”.
At some point will it be possible for you to direct Colombia or do you already see it as distant?
“I think not anymore. It is a situation where the possibility is more likely to be negative than positive. What I believe is that one does not have to be thinking much about that situation as a goal to be fulfilled now. If at any given moment a possibility arises, it will be analyzed if it is the best option. The only thing one should do is not to think of this as an obsession, but to look at its advantages and disadvantages and make the best decision”.
You have always been linked to Nacional, what is the feeling of seeing him champion with “El Arriero”?
“I was happy for him and obviously for the club. Hernán deserved it, he has worked all his life, he started at Nacional, he gave everything. Then when he came back to the minor divisions he did a quiet job and in a correct way. Now, when it comes to taking over as manager, he was very smart in associating not only the football part with good results, but also the emotional part with representativeness and a sense of belonging to a club. That makes a complete coach, who handles strategies at a certain moment, who knows that he has players with capacity, but that when he does not put himself at the service of the team he is useless. Herrera has created the synergy that a group must have to become a team”.
He also put together a family and is surrounded by an excellent work group…
“You have to keep in mind that football is not just a proposal and a strategy and applying it, but it is also an emotional state and turning individual desires into collective ones and it seems to me that this is what has been achieved with this stage of Herrera and the coaching staff he has at Nacional”.
Added to this is the support he has from the players of Nacional…
“Hernán earned it hard from the start and he knew that there was always a Sword of Damocles, a persistent threat there, and that he had to be achieving very good results to stay in office. Now, that situation must change and they must look at him at Nacional from another point of view and hopefully that’s the way it is”.
What should be the role of the technician, motivator or tactician and strategist?
“All these things must work the same, one cannot ignore any of them. Not everything can be done with emotion, but not everything with tactics and strategy either. You can’t make good players out of robots and sometimes that’s what you think you have to do, robotize football. Make certain movements and with that, stay calm. It seems to me that it should not be so. You have to put the emotional part, the desire, the sense of belonging, that everyone pulls to the same side and the egos stay out, but if we stay only with that part and we don’t play anything, we don’t get anything either.
How did you manage to convince the players in Costa Rica?
“Sometimes as a coach you make a mistake because you think you have to indoctrinate and what you have to do is convince with work and willingness and then understand the player. I do not think that one is the generator of something. Logically, if you are leading something, you have to manage certain situations, point out a path, but if that is not supported by the group, nothing is achieved. The most important thing is that the players take ownership of the objective and the path and also propose. That has always been my job and it is one of the things that I have always considered vital. The sense that the footballer believes he owns the achievement of a goal makes him make double efforts to achieve it, because he does not do things for the coach but with the coach. That was the key to qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar”.
What other situations do you have to pay attention to in the World Cup?
“The teams are in a bubble, everyone talks about the cultural changes that exist and that there will surely be a big clash of cultures when a lot of Western people go to Qatar. We will be in hotels where we will practically be alone. So it seems to me that it will be very similar to any other World Cup. The only difference is that in the previous ones one had to travel by plane for 3 or 4 hours from one city to another. In Qatar, the furthest stadium is 30 minutes away by land, that’s going to be special. It’s like playing a World Cup in one city, not in one country, a strange situation.”