- Xavi talks about Qatar 2022, his memories of South Africa 2010
- He has lived and worked in the host country of the 2022 World Cup for several years
- “Football culture is developing very quickly in Qatar,” he said
Xavi is one of the greatest midfielders of the modern era. Under his leadership, Spain reigned for several years in international football: the Roja has thus won two consecutive UEFA EUROS, but also and above all the 2010 FIFA World Cup ™.
Xavi has spent most of his career at FC Barcelona. Once the boots hung up, he embarked on a new adventure by becoming the coach of Al Sadd, one of the tenors of the Qatar championship.
The former Spanish international, who has been living in the host country of the next world event for several years, gives us his thoughts on what to expect from this competition, which promises to be exceptional on and off the pitch. He tells us in passing some of his memories of South Africa 2010 and draws up his list of contenders for the supreme title in two years.
Xavi, who are Qatar 2022 favorites?
This World Cup promises to be exciting and many teams will approach the competition with solid ambitions. Spain seems to have returned to a very interesting level of play in recent months. It is therefore with good morale that she should embark on the conquest of the Euro and the World Cup. Several European countries have strong arguments. Under these conditions, it is difficult to designate a favorite. France has a workforce that allows it to consider retaining its title. There are a lot of excellent players in this team, starting with Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann, who can turn a match into action.
Germany, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Croatia also have impressive qualities. I expect these selections to be very hard to beat. It is still too early to remove them from the list of candidates. On the South American side, Brazil and Argentina will certainly come to win, as usual. They can both count on experienced players like Neymar and Messi to coach the younger ones. Uruguay, Colombia and Chile are also capable of standing up to the best teams on the planet. I think the tournament will be quite open.
How are Qatar preparing to host the tournament?
I have lived in Qatar for several years, so I am well placed to witness the progress that has been made here. The country has made big investments in its infrastructure and stadiums, but it has also paid great attention to the development of its national team. The leaders wanted a selection capable of performing well at the highest level and competing with the best. The new generation seems to have reached an important stage. Qatar won the last Asian Cup and there are some interesting things they can do in the World Cup. Football culture is developing very quickly here. The World Cup will allow the discipline to enter another dimension, not only in Qatar but throughout the Arab world.
What can supporters expect to travel to Qatar in 2022?
Little by little, the atmosphere is on the rise. The country has promised an exceptional spectacle to all football lovers. When I see how far we have come since my arrival in 2015, whether it be in terms of the stadiums or the accommodation, I am sure that the supporters and the players will have a memorable tournament. One only needs to walk the streets of Doha and talk to the locals to realize that they love football. When I got here, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had just left the Barça after 25 years in Catalonia. I was afraid to find myself in another part of the world, with a culture and traditions very different from what I knew. But I have to admit that I quickly fell in love with Qatar. The climate is extraordinary: the sun shines almost every day. The people are respectful and friendly, which makes my job very enjoyable. Crime hardly exists here, which makes Qatar an ideal country for raising young children.
Fans will love their stay. The stadiums are incredible. They were built to provide the best possible experience. The atmosphere in the stands will match the event. Between matches, visitors will be able to experience a fantastic region and culture. There are sumptuous hotels near the beaches, a lot of nice restaurants, shopping centers… Fans from all over the world can meet in the Fan Zones to have a drink and enjoy the atmosphere. In short, those who will come to Qatar in 2022 will not regret it.
Let’s take a look back at Spain’s victory in the 2010 World Cup final. What are the characteristics that allowed your team to dominate the competition?
I was lucky to belong to an exceptional generation. We won the World Cup, but also two EUROS in a row. Each time, we were able to rely on a group of simple and honest players, who were not afraid to roll up their sleeves to help each other. We were all there to serve the group. Everything we did, we did for the good of the team. We had a series of good results, which allowed us to approach each match with the certainty of being able to win. Our coaches have also contributed to this success. Luis Aragones formed the hard core of the team and then Vicente del Bosque continued his work. He had the merit of making the most of the qualities we had at the time. This generation had a lot of talent and Del Bosque gave us the confidence to put in place a style of play that allowed us to dominate our opponents by delivering quality football. This is what people will take away from this period.
The year 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of Spain’s World Cup victory. What is the first image that comes to mind when you mention this competition?
I have a lot of spectacular images in my head! This victory may be ten years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. You feel incredible things when you realize that you have made history. I remember perfectly our joy, the happiness of holding the Trophy in our hands and our parade in the streets of Madrid, in a double-decker bus. Our victory pleased a lot of people in Spain. It is a memory that I will keep with me all my life. When you win the World Cup, you remain a champion forever. No one can take that title away from us. We have achieved extraordinary things. Every time I look back on those times, I feel a lot of joy and pride.
There is no such thing as a perfect match, but if you had to name Spain’s best match at the 2010 World Cup, which one would you pick?
We reached our peak against Germany, in the semi-finals. The Germans had a philosophy of play similar to ours: they sought to control possession, dominate and attack. We were very close in terms of intentions that day; we just played better. We suffered more in the final because we found against us a very aggressive and rough team from the Netherlands, which did not let us develop our game. Conversely, the Germans tried to beat us at our own game. but that day we were the best.
The Spanish game relies on possession of the ball. Today, the physical power and speed of transmissions occupy an increasingly important place. Could a team playing the same game as Spain in 2010 win the World Cup in 2022?
I am convinced that the team that dominates possession and attacks has a better chance of winning than the team that just defends. I am convinced of it because I have lived my whole life as a player according to these principles, following this path. At the end of the day, the team that takes the game on its own, that shoots most often, that plays closest to the opposing goal is the one best placed to win. This is obviously not a guarantee, but the statistics speak for it. So, yeah, I think a team could very well win the 2022 World Cup by practicing possession-based play and quick rallies.
In football, there are two types of coaches: those who want to defend and those who want to attack. I don’t need to say which side I’m on … As a coach, I want to see my team take the ball and attack. I want to see my players in the opposing half of the field. I want them to put pressure on the opposing team so that they can keep control of the ball most of the time. Much has improved in recent years. We insist on the speed of the transitions and the physical impact of the players but, in the end, I remain convinced that the victory will always go to the most talented and technically fair team.