BENCE BORBOLA
BENCE BORBOLA
2022.07.17 09:56 Frissítve: 2022.07.17 19:53

Lothar Matthäus: Brazil is my favorite at the World Cup

Who is he expecting to be in the final? Which African team could surprise the world? Former world champion and Hungarian national team head coach Lothar Matthäus has visited Qatar several times in recent months.

Lothar Matthäus picks Brazil to win the World Cup

 

He played in five world cups, was a World Cup gold medalist in 1990 in Italy, a silver medalist in 1982 (Mexico), and in 1986 (Spain). He was also a Ballon d'Or winner, European Champion, seven-time Bundesliga champion, two-time German Footballer of the Year, the only man in the world to have played in twenty-five World Cup matches, and the list goes on. If anyone is worth taking his word, it's Lothar Matthäus. We caught up with the former head coach of the Hungarian national team at the Kempinski Hotel in downtown Budapest, where he was evaluating the teams for the World Cup in Qatar, which kicks off on November 21.

Group A – Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands

Lothar MATTHÄUS
Born: March 21, 1961; Erlangen (West Germany)
Nationality: German
Position: midfielder, sweeper
Clubs as a player: Mönchengladbach (1979–1984), Bayern München (1984–1988; 1992–2000), Internazionale (Italy, 1988–1992), MetroStars (USA, 2000)
Caps/goals (1980–2000): 150/23
Achievements: World Champion (1990), European Champion (1980), 2-time UEFA Cup winner (1991, 1996), 7-time German champion (1985, 1986, 1987, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000), Italian champion (1989), 2-time German Cup winner (1986, 1998), German Super Cup winner (1987), Italian Super Cup winner (1989), Golden Shoe (1990)
Teams as a head coach: Rapid Wien (Austria, 2001– 2002), Partizan Beograd (Serbia, 2001–2003), Hungary (2003–2006), Athlético Paranaense (Brazil, 2006), RB Salzburg (Austria, 2006–2007), Maccabi Netanya (Israel, 2008–2009), Bulgaria (2010–2011)

"I've been to Qatar several times in the last few weeks, I was at the draw ceremony, and I like what I've seen so far. The stadiums are ready, I have visited several of the facilities in person and they are all impressive. Many people are worried about the weather, but I've been to Qatar in November, and the weather will be perfect for football, the fans, and the teams will have a great time. The country welcomes the world with open arms. As far as Group A is concerned, it is not the strongest quartet in the World Cup. The Netherlands stands out from this group in terms of their playing ability, and the experience of their captain Louis van Gaal is crucial in a tournament like this. There has been a generational change in the “Oranje,” they have talented youngsters, but this will not be their most memorable World Cup. Ecuador is an extremely tough opponent, but I think Senegal will be one of the surprise teams, at least as good as the Dutch. I have seen them twice recently, they play modern European football, they have almost completely left the African style behind, and the physicality of the players is impressive. Regarding the host, Qatar is not to be taken lightly either, we saw how much the home ground meant to Hungary too at the last European Championships. Qatar can also play at home, and the motivation of the players will be high, but I find it hard to see them progressing from the group."

Lothar Matthäus thinks the Netherlands and Senegal will advance

Group B – England, Iran, United States, Wales

"The Hungarians may have nothing but good memories of England these days, but I wouldn't write England off at the World Cup. They are the clear favorites in their group and I'm sure they will advance from this group of four. I played in the United States towards the end of my career, they have taken football seriously over the last few decades and experience is starting to be in their favor, having been to several major tournaments over the last few decades. Wales qualified in the playoff, many of their footballers play in England, yet they will have no chance of advancing... because Iran could score more points as well. I know the national team head coach well, recently the Croatian Dragan Skocic (who was sacked after our interview – the ed.) told me that a really good footballer in position 9 is missing, the others are complete. They are physically strong, there are high expectations for the team."
Lothar Matthäus thinks
England and the United States will advance

Group C – Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland

"I have nothing but good memories of Argentina, I won the World Cup in the final against them in 1990. I was a great admirer of Diego Maradona, we were friends, and we played against each other several times in Serie A. Argentina qualified second in South America behind Brazil, and the national team benefited from no longer being totally dependent on Lionel Messi. Even if, for me, the best player of the last ten years is clearly Messi, the others, including Cristiano Ronaldo, are not even close to him... Messi has brought so much joy and pleasure to the fans through his football game that no one will be able to do for a long time. The second place in the group will be decided between Mexico and Poland, the Mexicans are a tough opponent, they never give up, they could finish second in their group."

Lothar Matthäus thinks Argentina and Mexico will advance

Group D – France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia

"The balance of power is clear here, the two European teams will advance. The French are strong, everyone expects them to play impressive football, but for me, Denmark is just as good. They know what they have to do on the pitch, they don't have any world stars, but they know the system they have practiced and they know it by heart. As a team, they are the strongest, and they showed at the European Championships how much that means. France hasn't been at their best recently, the team has stumbled in the Nations League, but the World Cup is always different. The French are the tournament favorites, they and Brazil have the strongest squads - at least in terms of individuality."

Lothar Matthäus thinks France and Denmark will advance

Four years ago, the French national team returned home as the World champions (photo: AFP)

Group E – Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan

"I'm biased in this group, so let me start my evaluation with the Germans. Germany hasn't been the best in the Nations League either, and they suffered badly against Hungary at the Puskás Aréna. However, for me, Hans-Dieter Flick's character is a guarantee of success. We're good friends, I know what he thinks about football and one of his greatest virtues is the great relationship he has developed with the players. Mistakes will be corrected by the World Cup, the players believe in themselves and we Germans always get ourselves together for the big tournaments. Manuel Neuer is still the best goalkeeper in the world, so I have no fears for the national team. I'm not saying we're going to win the gold medal, but you never know. Spain is the other favorite in the group and I expect them to be one of the top four teams in the tournament. Costa Rica and Japan are fighting for third place in the group, the Central American team qualified for the World Cup for the third time in a row, I was there for their qualifier against New Zealand, I was invited to the match and I saw how good they were with the ball."

Lothar Matthäus thinks Germany and Spain will advance

Group F – Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia

"Canada and Morocco are lucky to be in the World Cup, I feel like an outsider a little bit... Belgium and Croatia are the clear favorites in the group, plus for the Belgians, this is the last major tournament where their stars can win gold as their next generation is not as strong as the current one. Croatia was a very solid team four years ago, I was there for several of their games in Russia, and I'm almost certain they won't be able to play just like they did then. In football, four years is a long time, my Croatian friends also don't expect the national team to finish in the top four."

Lothar Matthäus thinks Belgium and Croatia will advance

Group G – Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon

"...and then the Brazilians. For me, they are the number one favorites at the tournament. Even if they are drawn into the toughest group. Individually, they are extremely strong, they have no weaknesses, and the professional staff can pick and choose from the best footballers. I have worked in Serbia before as head coach of Partizan Beograd, and I can't deny that I have a bit of a soft spot for them. Plus, Serbian players are playing in top leagues all over Europe. Their national team head coach, Dragan Stojkovic, is motivated and has experience from his footballing career in how to achieve success. His players trust him implicitly and they could be the other surprise team. I also know the Swiss team well as several of their players play in the Bundesliga. Cameroon is not as strong as Senegal, so there is no say in their progress."

Lothar Matthäus thinks Brazil and Serbia will advance

Group H – Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea

"The Portuguese are strong, they have good players, they can qualify for the top eight, but not more... Even if Cristiano Ronaldo is still hungry to prove himself this time. As a player, I really disliked playing against Uruguay - they are a tough opponent, their players are strong, they fight until their last breath, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez can do anything. I've also seen Ghana recently, there are a lot of young players, but even though they are talented, it's not enough in a tournament like this. And South Korea... I am sure they will be at their best in the tournament. They'll do everything to succeed, they play a kind of computer football, they like to plan everything. It should be a tournament to remember in Asia, Qatar has everything in place to ensure a pleasant World Cup for fans and teams alike."

Lothar Matthäus thinks Portugal and South Korea will advance

Translated by Vanda Orosz.

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