- André Jardine, 41, to take Brazil to Tokyo
- Dani Alves, 38, is part of the group
- The Selection dream of a second consecutive Olympic coronation
A young 20-year-old engineering student decides to skip a few lessons to encourage a friend who is trying to make his Olympic dream come true in Sydney. Left free by Grêmio, André Jardine knows that he will not make a career in football. On the other hand, his former teammate Ronaldinho is the spearhead in an Olympic selection which has only one goal: to win the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament for the first time.
Despite a superb free kick from Ronaldinho, the Selection tilts (2-1) against Cameroon, in the quarter-finals. Water has flowed under the bridges since that time. Today, the roles are reversed: the former player of Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona will be present in the stands to encourage his friend André, who became coach of Brazil U-23 in 2019, at 39 years old.
FIFA.com met Jardine to discuss this time, his decision to select Daniel Alves, 38, the emotion of Paulinho when he learned of his summons, the qualities of Gerson and Bruno Guimaraes, and the goals of Brazil.
André Jardine, when did you stop your list of 18 players and how did you come up with the idea of calling Daniel Alves? ?
This morning, at the last minute. I arrived very early at the headquarters of the CBF. We still had doubts about the availability of some players. We therefore waited until the last moment to validate our list. Emerson is a very important player for us. When we learned that he would play in the Copa América in place of Daniel Alves, we changed our minds. In this case we win a leader of men, a champion and a charismatic player who enjoys great respect in Brazilian football. It is an example for the next generation to follow. Strangely enough, he had never participated in the Olympics before. It was a golden opportunity. My players will learn a lot from him and, on the pitch, I know I can count on him. He knows the recipe for success perfectly. We do not post such a list by chance.
How did he react when you contacted him?
He was wonderful. He really likes the Selection. For years, he has given a lot to his country. He became the face of the national team. I think he wasn’t expecting my call, but I saw a glint in his eyes. Joy could be read on his face. He immediately said that he was at our disposal and that he would do everything to help us.
You thought of him when you heard that your right-back would be unavailable. So is this the position you intend to use it for?
Daniel is a versatile player. It fits perfectly with the project that we are trying to set up. For me, the full-backs play different roles: defensive or offensive midfielders, or even wingers. His very complete profile will be very useful to us throughout the matches.
How do you judge Gerson and Bruno Guimaraes?
They are two amazing players. They were both selected for the national team. I know Titus appreciates them very much and follows them closely. I am sure they will still have the opportunity to prove themselves with the Selection but, for the moment, they are at our disposal. It is a chance for us. Not all teams have players of this caliber in their ranks. They are fabulous. They read the game very well, they have experience and they are able to dictate the pace of the game, which is a very valuable advantage at this level.
Have you been contacted by some players who absolutely wanted to be part of the team?
(laughs) You have no idea! Many of them have publicly expressed their interest in this competition. Matheus Cunha is an important part of my device, but he was very worried because of his injury. Paulinho was very moved. I saw his video on social media. It shows how much he wanted to be part of the adventure. Bruno Guimaraes has never hidden that he dreamed of participating in the Olympic Games. He has been talking about it regularly, for a very long time. I also think of Matheus Henrique. There are many others who have not been called but have often offered their services to me. Unfortunately places are limited and I couldn’t take everyone.
How do you judge your future adversaries: Germany, Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia?
They are strong adversaries. The matches against Germany are always posters. We saw it in the final of the World Cup or the last Olympic Tournament. The Germans are formidable, whether in the youth selections or at the highest level. They have just won Euro U-21, which says a lot about the quality of their squad. Côte d’Ivoire is one of the teams that count among the U-17s, U-20s and U-23s. Physically, the Ivorians are very strong. They go very fast and they are not lacking in talent. The Saudis have come a long way. They are much better organized, to the point of being able to give a hard time to top-notch teams. We will have to be wary of them, if we want to avoid a bad surprise. Overall, it’s a very open group.
Who are the main contenders for the gold medal outside of Brazil?
For me, Japan is one of them. There is also Argentina: a great team, with great players. Germany, Spain and South Korea also have arguments to make. We must also add to this list a few teams that nobody spoke about before the start of the tournament and which end up creating a surprise.
Is your team up to the challenge?
We have a magnificent Selection, a team worthy of representing Brazil. The CBF takes this competition very seriously. We have been working hard for two years. A lot of players have been with us from the start, they fight for a place, they play friendly matches and take part in the camps. When we get to Tokyo, we’ll be as ready as possible to go for the gold medal.
For lack of a career as a footballer, you began studying engineering. Why this choice ?
I did my training in Grêmio. I played with Ronaldinho Gaucho, but I didn’t turn professional. I’ve always been comfortable with numbers, so I had the idea of pursuing another career. But, frankly, I was still thinking about football. It was at this time that I discovered a passion for the coaching profession. At 21, 22, I already knew I wanted to make it my job. I then began a very long journey: futsal, football, Internacional, Grêmio, São Paulo … It represents more than 20 years of hard work. I think I deserve to be here today, considering what I’ve accomplished and how many players I’ve helped break through. I am proud of my background, but I would like to add a gold medal to my CV.
What kind of teammate was Ronaldinho?
He was amazing. I’m very lucky to have played with him. At ten, he was doing things that many professionals would have been incapable of. I remember it like it was yesterday. His natural talent placed him far above the rest. He is one of the greatest players of all time. I’m proud to be able to say that I played with him and that we are friends. I got to know him when I was ten and saw him become the best player in the world.
Ronaldinho is the most capped Brazilian player in the U-23s, but he never won the gold medal. Do you hope to outclass it?
After all these years, I could be better than him at something (laughs)! More seriously, Brazil have had some formidable caps over the years, which have failed to win in this tournament. It is an additional motivation for us. This title, we really want it.