Germany’s Fifa World Cup-winning captain Lothar Matthaus on Wednesday said India can think about qualifying for the quadrennial showpiece in a decade from now. The Bavarian also had high hopes for Stephen Constantine’s men in the AFC Asian Cup, and backed the Blue Tigers to progress from their group.
Germany, following a disastrous Euro 2000 campaign, famously changed their youth football ethos across the country. The move produced spectacular results with a young German outfit going on to lift the World Cup for the fourth time in 2014. Matthaus, who was in Mumbai for a Bundesliga event, called for patience while making wholesale changes to a footballing system.
“You cannot change from one day to another the results of Indian football,” the 52-year-old said. “This needs time.
“It’s simple, just like life: If you have a good teacher, you have good students. If you have good coaches, you will find good young players.
“Maybe in eight-ten years you [India] can think about World Cup qualification. I am sure [it] will not come in 2022, but in 2026 and 2030 you have a good chance.”
In what will sound like music to an Indian football fan’s ears, Matthaus tipped India to progress to the knockout stages of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. India are in a tough group that features hosts United Arab Emirates, Thailand and Bahrain.
“I have to tell honestly that I am not a specialist about all Asian football,” he said. “I know the top countries who play mostly in the World Cup. But I generally follow football not only in Asia but also in South America.
“When I saw the group in which [India] are to play [in the AFC Asian Cup], it is possible for India to go to the next round.”
Despite playing for Bayern Munich for much of his career, Matthaus heaped praise on the footballing structure of rivals Borussia Dortmund, who sit comfortably on top the Bundesliga table.
“Do you know why Dortmund is successful now? They have been doing the right things for the last two years. I like their style,” said the man who played in five World Cups.
“Bayern Munich, on the other hand, was doing the same s**t during this period; they did not pay attention to the performances and the results. Now, they are playing at the highest level, and it not just the league. Dortmund didn’t have the results initially but now they are reaping the fruits of it.
Matthaus vs Maradona
Matthaus was famously given a man-marking job to nullify the rampaging Diego Maradona when West Germany faced Argentina in the 1986 World Cup final. Despite a young Matthaus doing a fine job, Maradona found a way to take his team to glory in Mexico.
“I had different jobs. In 1986 [World Cup], my job was to stop [Diego] Maradona,” Matthaus said, remembering the epic final. “In 1990, we had another player to stop Maradona and I was playing more in the offence and you see, we had better results.”
“Maradona in ’86 was different than in 1990. 1986 was his World Cup; 1990 he was not playing on his highest level. And it was good for us [Germans] and not so good for Argentina, but generally we were a better team and were more stable than in 1986. It was always an honour for me to play against Diego Maradona,” he said.