Doha: German legend Jurgen Klinsmann said that an underdog could go far in what he is predicting will be a “World Cup of surprises” in Qatar.
The hosts play Ecuador in the opening game today of the first World Cup held in the northern hemisphere winter.
The change from the usual June-July slot means this World Cup falls in the middle of the club season in Europe, where the majority of leading players are based. This is also just the second World Cup in Asia.
“I think this could be a World Cup of surprises because if some of the kind of underdogs - maybe if it’s an African nation, if it’s an Asian team - if they are courageous I think you can go actually far in this tournament,” Klinsmann told a press conference in Doha.
“It is not a tournament to sit back and defend. I think it’s a tournament that really invites you to go, be courageous and go forward.
“I don’t think you go very far if you just have a defensive approach in this tournament,” added Klinsmann.
Now 58, the former striker played in the West Germany team that won the World Cup in 1990 and later coached Germany to third place as hosts in 2006.
Having also taken charge of the United States in Brazil in 2014, he is now back at the World Cup as a member of FIFA’s Technical Study Group analysing matches at the tournament.
The group is overseen by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
The World Cup is starting just a week after the last matches were played in Europe’s leading leagues, leaving little time for national teams to prepare.
That has led to increased anxiety about injuries, but Klinsmann said he does not necessarily see the lack of preparation time as a problem, believing players are “fresh and hungry”.
“I believe that we are going to see a tournament of very, very high quality because the players didn’t need another preparation like they usually do before a World Cup,” he said.