The Cuban national men’s football team is about to face a double test that will determine its future in the short to medium term. The two games against Barbados and Guadeloupe, which close out their participation in Group A of the Concacaf Nations League (CNL) Division B, mean for the Caribbean Lions the opportunity to get a ticket to circuit A, as well as a direct ticket to the 2023 Gold Cup with all the positives. which it might mean.
Before this defining moment for the team, Juventud Rebelde spoke to Pablo Elier Sanchez, a coach who has been with the team since 2020 and under whose tutelage we have seen the progress of a team that has been performing well below its real level for a long time. possibilities.
“The next matches will determine the evolution of what we have done, in addition to what they can mean for the Nations League and the Gold Cup. The result on the field is the best way to assess how much the team has improved and these duels are. So we have to gather the boys and get things that will allow us to show that we have moved forward.
Now we do it differently and we had to constantly talk to the boys to make them do what we want, depending on their form and performance,” Sanchez analyzed.
For the manager, a native of Pinar del Rio, the so-called teamwork it depends on the level of the players and not on the preparation time, as no club spends too much time on their athletes, and therefore it is necessary to optimize it to the maximum.
Fortunately, in addition to the sporting level of his students, Pablo Elier recognized that the main strength of this process was the strong bond that was formed between several generations of players, whose commitment to his football idea is absolute.
“The national team gradually and thoughtfully added talented people and brought their players to the level leagues. We want boys to show up and go to more competitive places. One of the things that we have achieved is that people who have played in the Premier League get along with very young guys from the national league.
But beyond that, we expect players to be accountable so that they know that the only way to make a leap in quality now and ultimately strive to participate in the World Cup is to realize that every step we take is connected with this direction. We have to make sure that’s on their mind, because the obstacles sometimes live only there, and after all this time, I think they’re less difficult now.
We’re going to improve the team. Time and cycles will give us the shot we need. We have raw materials, fluidity and consolidation of choice. You have to consolidate positions, change the profiles of great players so that the team has as many talents on the field as possible, and so far we have been successful. We hope that this next FIFA rendezvous will be the last step towards meeting the best teams and counter,” he said.
Two “grumpy” neighbors
“The Barbadians have a new technique, but they keep a common core. In addition, they play without pressure at home, and this can complicate things for us,” says Sanchez, who believes that no team is easy until the final result is reached, which is always a victory. It doesn’t matter to him if you score ten goals today, because tomorrow you can lose. “The weakest team in the world locks you up, and if you don’t know how to figure it out, you won’t reach your goal.”
As he explained to us, in the previous match against Barbados, which ended 3-0 in favor of the Cubans, they had a lot of possession and chances, but this does not mean that now they have an advantage. From their point of view, the decision will come on March 23 only after the game and show of superiority after 90 minutes at Wildie Turf, their home, where no one has been able to score more than one goal.
On the other hand, with Guadalupe actors, the story is different. Cuba went to them (1-2) on the opening day of the competition, which, according to the coach of the vueltabajero, was a thorn in his boys, who will now play for the locals on March 26 at the Antonio Maceo stadium in Santiago.
“There were difficult playing conditions, the ground was in poor condition, which led to mistakes, including those that cost a goal. This is a game that defines everything, and to this is added all our desire for revenge, ”Vueltabajero said.
Pablo Elier knows his opponent. He knows they play strong and have tall players, but they can be beaten with tactics. “We watched the first clash, and although we will be convinced of victory, we do not have an excess of confidence or anything like that. We have been learning to maximize performance improvement and are going to solve the game sooner,” he explained.
Assembling the “doll”
In this case, as in all FIFA dates, each coach must form the strongest possible squad that will allow him not only to win games, but also, as far as possible, to try new options for the next important tasks.
“Every call is made first and foremost looking for a way to give continuity to those who have been in the process as they are already more identified with this football idea. From there we are interested in continuing the momentum from the qualifiers to continue looking for better results.
This time we will have several victims, such as the injured Onel Hernandez, so we looked for options that are similar to our idea and respect, above all, those who manage to adapt better to our group. experienced players with veterans and the download of talented youth in good shape. Hence, what we want is to have possession and touch the ball, to have order, to attack without balls, so that it is intentional football, not based on chance.
We are working with the players on these duels, analyzing what we did before what they mean. We are the first and we depend on us. Apparently the conditions for qualification have been created, but it is not easy. We have players who are injured and feel discomfort, or who refused to be with the team now, which to some extent breaks our plans, ”said the teacher.
As for the next double challenge, Sanchez confirmed that they would have two days of practice before the match, unlike other moments where they had just over 60 minutes the day before to prepare, a factor that caused them to perform poorly on their debuts in various tournaments.
“Apart from this particular challenge, this job as a coach is tedious because we have to ensure continuity for the players, not only for those who will enter the list of 23, but also for another larger group that reaches 37 between Cuba and abroad” , – he said. Pablo Elier.
“With overseas players, it’s possible to see everything they’re doing, which allows us to have videos and statistics to process their performance in major league teams. And with the locals you have to resort to direct conversations, to the help of programs like football x inside and other employees who allow us to keep abreast of your participation in the game, goals, individual abilities and development.
Are you dreaming about 2026 or not?
With the change to the format of the World Cup, which will now accept up to 48 representatives, Koncacafe will have three direct spots and two more for the Intercontinental Playoffs, opening up new qualifying opportunities for teams that would normally not count at all. .
“You need to look far away. It’s not like we’re already thinking about the World Cup without finishing the actual work, but it’s something very connected. For example, if we move up to the CNL A League and reach the Gold Cup, we take a step to a level that will allow us, almost to force us, to improve ourselves in order to compete in the qualifying matches with the most demanding matches as a group.”
These duels against Barbados and Guadeloupe, which we soon engaged in, are required of us in the coming future. If we add up, then why can’t we fight the teams in the area. You have to take advantage of this initial cycle to grow in the early rounds, reach intermediate goals and reach the next stronger rounds,” he told JR Sanchez from his home in Pinar del Rio, a place where he can’t be as much as I would like to. like.
“I spend little time here and, as now, I am active depending on work: I communicate with the coaching staff, with the players, representatives of the federation. Obviously, we are free, but bound by responsibility. The family needs to support us and while they don’t always take everything I have to do perfectly, it’s what the person has chosen and the sacrifice is understandable and it doesn’t make sense without them because they make it worthwhile.”
Source: Juventud Rebelde