Author of the Golden Book of Cups tells curious stories and talks about Qatar-2022

The journalist from Curitiba Lycio Vellozo Ribas tells in this interview for the Well Paraná about the success of the Golden Book of Cups, the most complete publication on the World Cup. He talks about competition curiosities for 2022, about ‘bizarre’ cases from the past and about the proposal for the competition to be every two years. And it lists the most underrated and overrated players in history.

Bem Paraná – You have already published other books about the World Cups. What’s new in this release?
Lycio Vellozo Ribas — There are several situations revisited from other World Cups, such as the controversy between Argentina and Peru in the 1978 World Cup. There are more “thematic” teams: one with young players (there are Pelé, Mbappé and Eto’o together in the same team), another with brands individual. And several of the 2018 themed teams changed rosters. Didier Deschamps, for example, passed to the team of “Players-Coaches”, those who played in a Cup and then coached in a Cup. There’s also a chapter just about goalkeepers. In addition, it has the games of the last World Cup, in Russia, and calls for the World Cup in Qatar, already with the pandemic and the peculiarities of Italy and Russia in the Qualifiers.

BP — Your books are very successful with all age groups. Children love it. A friend said that his son slept hugging the book the day he got it. And the ‘veterans’ highly praise the content and design. How did you manage to reach all these audiences?
Lycio — I think it was because the book struck a good balance between text and visuals, and that’s why it appealed to different age groups. The texts are short and very accessible to everyone. It is also well illustrated, the design draws attention. And the themed teams, in addition to bringing short trivia from the players, stimulate the imagination. Imagine a team with Messi, Maradona and Romario in attack. The book brings that possibility.

BP — What do you expect from this 2022 World Cup, which will be unprecedented in many ways?
Lycio — Starting with the contest season, at the end of the year. For the first time. And it wasn’t because of the postponement of games in the Covid-19 pandemic, it was because of the heat in Qatar in the months of June and July, which is when the Cup normally takes place. There is a mild climate in November, with temperatures of around 25ºC. If it was in June, it would have peaks of 50ºC and that desert dryness. Also, it will catch the European season right in the middle. The trend is that there are fewer players away because of injuries. This is common at the end of the European season, when players are much more worn out. Logistics in Qatar should also have an influence, as the stadiums are all close to each other. The maximum distance between them is 60 kilometers. In Russia or Brazil, there were stadiums 3,000 km away from each other. There will also be a kind of farewell. Several players aged 33 and over, such as Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Modric, Neuer and Benzema will perhaps be in their last Cup. In fact, there are six players with great chances of being in a World Cup for the 5th time: Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Spanish defender Sérgio Ramos, goalkeeper Ochoa and midfielder Guardado, from Mexico, and Behrami, from Switzerland. To date, only four players have reached this milestone: Mexican goalkeeper Carbajal (1950-1966), German Lothar Matthäus (1982-1998), Italian goalkeeper Buffon (1998-2014) and Mexican Rafa Márquez (2002-2018).

BP – And in the field? Who are the favourites, in your opinion?
Lycio “From the names it has, France. It looks stronger than in 2018, as it has Benzema – who has everything to be voted the best player of the last European season – in place of Giroud. Nor do I rule out Argentina, which has fixed several chronic problems of the last 15 years, such as the lack of a reliable goalkeeper and a good attacking partner for Messi. I see Brazil with great chances. It’s not a team that enchants, but it’s efficient. And, outside the wings, there are good players in all positions. England and Belgium also have good chances to do well. Germany and Spain are rebuilding.

BP – About the proposal for the Cup every two years? What do you think?
Lycio — Neither I like it, nor the European federations like it. Part of the charm of the Cup is that it is exactly every four years. With this idea, FIFA is only thinking about money, not the quality of the show. Apart from that it would create a gigantic problem for the world football calendar, which is already tight. In Europe, federations are even considering calling South American teams to compete in the Nations League and, with that, emptying the Cup if it happens every two years.

BP – In the history of the World Cup, who are the most overrated players, in your opinion?
Lycio — Considering the fame and what they did for their selections, one of them is David Beckham. He’s a good player, with an extraordinary set piece, but nothing more. He didn’t dribble, he didn’t step into the area, he didn’t head, he didn’t score, he wasn’t fast, he didn’t run as much, he almost didn’t help in the defense. He held on to Manchester United because the team was running for him. In two World Cups (2002 and 2006), he arrived as England’s biggest star and popped up. That’s what had already been expelled in 1998… Among Brazilians, I mention Leonardo, who played in 1994 and 1998. A club player, far from being a national player.

BP – And the most underrated?
Lycio — Of the oldest, Helmut Rahn, Germany striker from 1954. When talking about this Germany, they say they beat Puskas Hungary, which was a surprise, they talk about Fritz Walter, but Rahn decided the game – which ended 3 to 2 – with two goals and one assist. And he had already decided the match against Yugoslavia, in the quarterfinals. He was an ambidextrous striker, fast, strong, but less remembered than he should have been. Of the most recent, two that I consider underrated are Thomas Müller, from Germany, and Angel Di María, from Argentina. They are skilful, intelligent, they understand the reality of each match and know how to adapt their football to the needs of the game. Among Brazilians, Dunga. Not that it is underestimated, but it carries a certain rancidity on the part of the fan. A lot of people see him as a brucutu midfielder, but he was way better than that. He is one of the best passers in history. In 1994, he was the player with the most passes at a World Cup (589) until he was surpassed by Spaniard Xavi (599) in 2010.

BP – Of the curious situations that occurred in the World Cups, which was the most bizarre?
Lycio — The World Cups have had many curious situations, such as the president missing the kickoff, player hurting his head on an iron bar before entering the field, beam breaking during the game, queen invading the locker room… But I think the most bizarre was the Sheikh Fahid Al Sabah, who headed the Kuwaiti delegation and invaded the field in the defeat to France in 1982. He said he had heard a whistle signaling offside on France’s 4th goal. And he entered the field, accompanied by several armed security guards. He ordered the goal disallowed. The referee, a Soviet, had not whistled anything, ended up disallowing the goal. He was heavily criticized for that. But maybe one of the sheikh’s men decides to pull out his gun…

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