With just over a month to go before the 2018 World Cup commences in Russia, Julen Lopetegui sat down with AS at the Spanish FA HQ in Las Rozas to analyse the competition. As was expected he veered away from any questions linked with possible squad inclusions and also stayed clear of linking players with his initial draft list of 35. The Spanish coach will be without the Real Madrid players for the initial meet-up phase given the club's participation in the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev. Lopetegui comes from the Luis Molowny and subsequently Vicente Del Bosque school of football management and discretion is one of the key values epitomised by the Basque coach.
For this very reason I was surprised to see Lopetegui so upfront with his thoughts on the VAR system. He feels it will play a major role in many games at the tournament and not just in amending errors but also in the dynamic and flow of many matches with every time the system is used meaning a stoppage in the action. He's concerned about this will affect Spain's style of play with so much of La Roja's game about movement and rhythm as they move the ball around with pace and purpose. Every stoppage that could last up to two or three minutes the coach feels would give an advantage to the opposition side. Lopetegui has even gone so far as to analyses in detail VAR situations in other leagues to find out how best his side can deal with the use of technology at the World Cup,
The Basque coach will undergo a special line of work with his backroom staff on how best to deal with these short breaks. The coach still claims that they key for his team is that his players extol values of enthusiasm, ambition and humility. He did confirm that his squad list will not include certain players who featured in the group stage and that to whittle the list down to just 23 players was a tall order. "I'll make last minutes decisions too", he announced. The squad selection process is indeed a tough one for the coach and sometimes even tougher for those players who fail to make the flight to Russia.