Sebastian Coates exclusive: World Cups have no favourites, just one bad day and you're out

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Sebastian Coates exclusive: World Cups have no favourites, just one bad day and you're out
Center back Sebastian Coates playing for the Uruguay national team
Center back Sebastian Coates playing for the Uruguay national team
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Sebastian Coates (32), born in Montevideo, Uruguay, arrived in Europe more than ten years ago, through the doors of Liverpool. He has been with Sporting since 2016, where he is the team captain and has won every title available in Portugal. He made his debut in the national team of Uruguay in June 2011 against Estonia. Since then he has made 47 international caps so far, four Copa America appearances (winning one of them) and two World Cup call-ups (Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018).

At 32, Coates is going to his third World Cup and in a Flashscore News exclusive interview, he analyses the competition in Qatar, the clash with Portugal, the importance of the opening game and, of course, the favourites to win the coveted trophy.

The World Cup is just around the corner and Uruguay is once again in Portugal's group, this time with Ghana and also South Korea. What are your ambitions and expectations for your third World Cup?

"I think that first of all we have to be focused and prepare as best we can. Obviously with the focus on the first game in the group stage (with South Korea). Because, and I speak from experience, the first game of the World Cup is always very complicated, a lot of nerves too. The two times I've been to a World Cup, the first game ended up not being so pretty but we have to focus on winning the match and then face the second game in the best way. I think the first game is always the one that sets the tone for the group. And obviously we will try to win every game, but you can speculate a bit with the other results as well."

It's a short competition, the group stage. It's only three games and not winning the first one doesn't ruin anything but it does complicate it...

"Yes, exactly. That's why I say that. In Brazil we lost against Costa Rica in the first game and then had to win the other two. Obviously when you depend on one result sometimes it becomes very complicated. So I think the best thing we can do nowadays is to prepare well, to have the mentality in the first game and not think about what's next, not to think about the game with Portugal, which is obviously a team with a lot of players at a very good level. It's going to be very complicated, both for them and for us."

Before I ask you to talk about Uruguay's opponents, this World Cup is different in everything. In a place where it has never been held, with its own culture, and at an unusual time of year. We've heard a lot of coaches, and also some players, not liking the timing very much, but they'll have to play. It gets a bit out of the routine, both because of a World Cup in November and December, and also because of a country with a completely different culture. How do you as a professional and as a group deal with this?

"There are so many games in a short period of time. We've already started the league, we've already had a lot of games, and then when the World Cup is over the league will continue and we'll have a lot of games again... But once that's already decided, in my personal case I try to focus first on being well physically, obviously, and also focus on things that I can control. There are things I don't control and spending energy on that also takes the focus off what I can actually do within a World Cup. It has negative things, of course, but it has other things that too, that are positive. We are just starting the leagues, of course we have already played a lot of games, but it is just starting and maybe that is the main difference to other World Cup, where we players had already finished our leagues, after probably a very tough year, and we had to stop for 15 days to compete again. It wasn't ideal either. Everything we can talk about, which is not usual for a World Cup, also has positive aspects."

Sebastian Coates' recent seasons
Flashscore

You've already spoken about Portugal. You know their league, you know the Portuguese players, even if most of them play outside the country. In the last World Cup, Uruguay beat Portugal. Will it be the big game of the group, in your opinion?

"Theoretically yes. Obviously Portugal have great players, who are in spectacular moments of their careers. But we, in our national team, also have that. We have a mix of experienced players and new players who are at a great level, Valverde, Bentancur, Darwin, Ugarte too, of course. It's going to be an interesting game but like I said, we have to first focus on the first game. After that, yes, I'm going to have to face a lot of mates I've already played with. Let's hope Uruguay win."

South Korea are Uruguay's first opponents. A lot of people don't consider countries in the East as strong football countries, but in some European leagues, like England and Germany, there are a lot of Asian players. And they show a lot quality. You don't want to go into that game underprepared, right?

"No, not at all. That's why I said it. Theoretically, for many people, the most beautiful game is going to be Uruguay-Portugal, but obviously we don't think that way. We think that both South Korea and Ghana will be very difficult games too. We've already played them on other occasions and it was always very difficult. We also played Korea after the World Cup and they're good physically and technically too. We know that, that's why I spoke about preparing well for the first match and taking the focus off the match with Portugal. We have to try to win the first match and only then focus on Portugal."

With everything that surrounds the competition, the date on which it takes place, the overload of the players... There are teams that won't even play friendlies before the World Cup. Given all that, who do you think are the favourites?

"I think in a World Cup there are no favourites. Obviously there are teams that have players who often show, weekend after weekend, that they are at a great level, but when a World Cup comes, a lot of things change. That's why in every World Cup there's always been a team that nobody expected to make it far in the competition. Obviously yes, there are the usual favourites, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, even Portugal, even us, I also like the team we have... But then it all comes to what happens day-to-day. That's the thing with the World Cup - it takes one match when you don't have a good day and you can be out right away."