Vladimir Petkovic had some large sneakers to fill when he took over as head coach of the Swiss nationwide staff in 2014 following Ottmar Hitzfeld’s profitable tenure. But the 57-yr-outdated has confirmed himself, and his contract was prolonged till the top of 2022 just some months in the past.
Petkovic, who was on the helm of Lazio within the Serie A simply eight months earlier than taking over his present function, has led Switzerland to qualification for each UEFA EURO 2016 in France and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. However, they have been knocked out within the final 16 at each tournaments, leaving them with sad reminiscences of the 5-4 penalty shootout defeat to Poland in Saint-Etienne and of the 1-0 reverse to Sweden two years in the past in St. Petersburg.
FIFA.com caught up with Petkovic shortly earlier than the European qualifying draw for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
FIFA.com: Vladimir, what could be your verdict on 2020?
Vladimir Petkovic: The yr 2020 will go down within the historical past books. The entire world was stunned by a pandemic, and it additionally affected soccer. I at all times take life because it comes and take a look at to make the perfect out of it. After an extended break, we had eight video games in just below three months. It was each an intensive and informative time for my staff and I. We performed towards the perfect groups in Europe in League A of the UEFA Nations League. In phrases of outcomes, there was room for enchancment, however within the matches towards Germany and Spain we noticed that we’re growing positively, can compete with the perfect and assert ourselves.
To what extent has your work as a nationwide staff coach modified in the course of the pandemic?
We weren’t in a position to meet up or play any matches for a really very long time. In the top we have been solely actively out on the pitch for 3 months. We organised digital conferences to keep communication between the employees and gamers. Sometimes it was simply in order that we might see one another and have a drink collectively. I phoned the gamers lots and watched the vast majority of their behind-closed-doorways video games on tv, reasonably than on the stadiums. The gamers tailored to the brand new situations, and my employees and I had to implement all the pieces we hadn’t been in a position to earlier than inside a really brief area of time. As I discussed, I take all the pieces because it comes and take a look at to make the perfect of each state of affairs.
What are your expectations for 2021? How far are you able to go on the European Championship?
It’ll be an intensive and eventful yr for soccer in 2021. We’re wanting ahead to the World Cup qualifiers and the EURO, and we hope we’ll quickly have the opportunity to play and expertise soccer once more like we did earlier than the pandemic. We invested lots in our Nations League marketing campaign as preparations for the EURO. We need to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar and go so far as we will on the European Championship. Quite a bit is feasible with this staff. If all the pieces comes collectively we will go a good distance and we hope that there’ll quickly be a definitive resolution that the EURO can go forward as deliberate.
You will face Italy, Turkey and Wales in your group…
They’re three sturdy groups, however we don’t want to be terrified of anyone. We go into every sport wanting to win it. Italy and Turkey have slight benefits in that they’re enjoying ‘home games’: Italy in Rome and Turkey in Baku. But our first goal is to progress to the subsequent spherical.
Germany have obtained a variety of criticism not too long ago. Were you stunned by their 6-0 defeat to Spain?
Obviously it’s a shock when Germany lose 6-0, but it surely’s not that way back that they beat Brazil 7-1. Anything is feasible in soccer. There are extraordinary days like that when such issues can occur, particularly as a result of we’re in a interval the place groups are gearing up for the EURO and World Cup qualification, and are attempting issues out. But the consequence reveals that Spain are actually good and have taken nice strides. It additionally demonstrates simply how good our 1-1 draw with Spain was, as we’d solely performed them three days earlier. That consequence didn’t obtain the credit score it deserved in some quarters.
Switzerland drew towards Germany in September and October. How vital are these ‘prestigious’ outcomes towards Germany?
We’ve at all times mentioned that we have no reason to fear anyone. Our gamers play in the perfect leagues on this planet, and a variety of the time they line up alongside Germany gamers. We’ve climbed nearer to the worldwide elite. Those attracts are proof of that, however you may additionally see that we’re nonetheless lacking that little one thing to have the opportunity to win these video games.
Let’s speak in regards to the Qatar 2022 qualifying draw. Is there a rustic you want to to keep away from?
You can’t choose and select in World Cup qualifying. All the groups in Pot 1 are excellent, and there are sturdy sides in Pots 2 and three as effectively. We at all times simply take it because it comes and hope for the luck of the draw in order that we find yourself qualifying with good performances.
Would you be completely happy to be drawn towards Germany?
Of course. Germany are our neighbours. We’ve obtained an extended-standing neighbourly friendship and a wealthy historical past of soccer collectively. Matches towards Germany are at all times particular they usually’re highlights for our followers too. But we want to enhance sure particulars so as to assert ourselves absolutely towards groups like that. We would actually look ahead to a sport towards Germany.
Switzerland have certified for the final 4 consecutive World Cups. Will Die Eidgenossen even be at Qatar?
We’ll do all the pieces we will to get there. We’re very assured and consider we will do it, despite the fact that it’ll be more durable to qualify as a result of solely the group winners and three greatest runners-up in Europe get a ticket. We’ll do our utmost to execute all the pieces positively.
To what extent has the coronavirus pandemic affected outcomes? Can there be extra surprises?
I don’t suppose outcomes have been affected by it. The pandemic has affected everybody, so each affiliation and each staff are battling the identical difficulties. During the UEFA Nations League everybody had to learn the way to deal with the pandemic, and we noticed that there’s room for enchancment in some locations.
What are your ideas typically on the 2022 World Cup? Have you ever been to Qatar?
I’ve by no means been there and I’m wanting ahead to getting to know the nation. I’m very curious to see what’s going to await us. There’s a brief window for preparation as a result of the World Cup is going down in winter, and the gamers gained’t be as drained as they often could be earlier than a World Cup. The gamers from the highest leagues will probably be fitter than they might be in June, so that may make the standard and depth even higher. You can study from that and choose up new experiences as a coach and as a staff, all geared in direction of having a superb World Cup.
Will the World Cup be an additional particular event due to it going down in winter?
It is certainly one thing particular for the gamers and for followers all around the world. For our followers at dwelling that may imply public viewing at indoor areas and never outdoors on a pleasant summer time’s night. But now those that stay within the different hemisphere will get to expertise a World Cup in summer time. In Europe, folks will probably be at dwelling extra in the course of the winter and will probably be following all the spectacle on their screens.
Switzerland have reached the Round of 16 in three of their final 4 World Cup campaigns. Can you go even additional in 2022?
We’re engaged on it. We’re continually wanting to enhance, step-by-step. First of all we would like to qualify. The second step is to make it out of our group. And we’ll do all the pieces we will to have the opportunity to take additional steps too.