It seems like just yesterday that BL and I were watching the Germany v. Argentina World Cup quarterfinal. One thing I'll always remember from that game was the agonizing look on Jose Pekerman's face every time the camera focused in on him. He was without his first-choice keeper, had exhausted his three substitutions, and was staring the grim reality of penalty kicks straight in the face. I felt sorry for the guy, he had the best team in the tournament and deep in his heart, probably knew that this was the end of the road.
Well, now we know what Pekerman has been up to since the World Cup. He sat down with for an interview with Juan Castro of the Spanish sports daily Marca. The interview was mostly a chance to look ahead to the Spain v. Argentina friendly tomorrow, but they touch the World Cup and Lionel Messi. While I would like to have seen more questions dedicated to his time in charge of Argentina, I'll take what I can get from, what I can tell, has been his only sit-down since Argentina's elimination in Germany.
I know I'm probably breaking any number of copyright restrictions, but oh well. Here's a rough translation:
What have you been up to these last couple of months? Have you isolated yourself or are you still passionate about soccer?
I've been keeping up to date with the world of soccer. It's my life and it always will be. In September I took part in FIFA's International Football Symposium that covered the technical aspects of the tournament. I've also been dedicated to relaxation and being with my family.
Do you still think about being eliminated in the World Cup by Germany, in the cruelest of ways, by penalties?
Yes, I've watched the game over and over again. If we had won the penalty shoot-out, I saw the team in the final. The team improved throughout the tournament. We played good soccer and that was despite the fact that we had 19 players who were making their World Cup debuts. Only (Roberto) Ayala, (Juan Pablo) Sorin, (Pablo) Aimar, and (Hernan) Crespo had played in such an atmosphere.
What happened with Messi? There seemed to be a lot of criticisms concerning his lack of playing time.
I'm very proud of him, it was I who first incorporated him into the national team by picking him for the U-20 side. Until then, no one had heard of him. The problem is that everyone in Argentina got emotional every time he touched the ball. People expected Messi to be the Maradona of the World Cup, but he was only taking his first steps in what was a very good (Argentina). I hope the experience will serve him in good stead in the future. But he isn't Maradona, he's a different type of player.
What did you think of (Alfio) Basile being appointed as your successor?
I thought is was great. He's a man who's respected in our country and who has many years of experience with the national team.
Does his squad look much like yours?
Basile respects the history and style of Argentine soccer. From the squad list that I saw, there are some great players at his disposal. Coco (Basile's nickname) will do a great job.
Did (Juan Roman) Riquelme's retirement surprise you?
We should try to understand where Juan Roman is coming from because he gave everything to Argentina. He retired because of issues his family were going through. It a very personal decision that should always be respected.
Are you going to watch the match against Spain?
Of course I'm going to watch it... at home. Am I nostalgic? Yes, it's great to have the opportunity to be able to select the national team. But I already had my turn. Now I'll support the team, like I always have. I'm even be more enthusiastic about it than ever.
Do you expect to see a good game in Murcia against Spain?
The setback they suffered in Sweden will affect the game, but for Spain playing against Argentina is always more important than a mere friendly. They will take it very seriously and it has the makings of a very attractive game.
When will we see you coach again? Maybe in Spain?
Hopefully, I'll return to coaching when the circumstances are optimal. After this rest I've taken, I have the drive to come back. It'll happen once I find a position that fulfills the prerequisites. In Spain? I know La Liga well, I watch about five Spanish games every weekend. It's the best league in the world.
Jose Pekerman interview (in Spanish) [Marca]