One can attain much more when one has knowledge

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1 Slaven Bilic Croatian National Team coach: The reason for visiting the Croatian national centre of football was because of the national side s excellent performances in the qualification group for the EURO 2008 led by their new coach Slaven Bilic. Another reason was the Croatian Football Federation prepared and presented bid to jointly host EURO2012 with the Hungarian Football Federation. SoccerCoachingInternational was welcomed by Croatian Football Federation s president Mr. Vlatko Markovic, their Secretary General Mr. Zorislav Srebric, and the Croa - tian national team coach Mr. Slaven Bilic. These three men have dedicated their life to football. To these people football is a job, a love and a passion. A relaxed friendly atmosphere was felt everywhere from the reception to the President s office. We were welcomed as if we had come home and the results of the national side in the last few months didn t surprise us anymore. By: Dusan Petrovic One can attain much more when one has knowledge 4

2 The Croatian Football Federation with 38 employees is one of the financially stable companies in Croatia, thanks to the national team s showings in major competitions for a number of years. says President Mr. Vlatko Markovic, the man who has been at the head of the Croatian Football Federation for more than ten years and who from within football and not from politics, which was the norm at the time. The Croatian football team is one of the biggest Croatian brands and it is recognized everywhere in the world. This isn t a coincidence; we invested a lot into football development in Croatia by opening football schools and updating the entire administration system using one of the most contemporary computer systems in the world to monitor every competition. I surrounded myself with smart, hardworking people, who are ready to invest in the development of football in Croatia. Together, we push ahead in each and every field. Here I would like to single out Secretary General Mr. Srebric who, by his remarkable selflessness, unifies our work and aims it in the right direction. The Croatian Football Federation has 25 different national selections in its structure which are, I can freely say, sponsored by the national team and whose life depends on the success of the national team. Mr. Vlatko Markovic, Croatian Football Federation president The Croatian football team is one of the biggest Croatian brands We set extremely high demands and goals for our national team simply because our football publicity demands it. Our people are used to successes dating back to the former Yugoslavia, so it is demanded of us to achieve the highest results no matter what difficulties we are faced with. In my opinion no matter what the conditions all teams or clubs from the former Yugoslavian territory are training and preparing to attain very good results and they are motivated to go even further and demand a little more from themselves. Our teams and clubs are pretty small if we compare them to world standards and the placement of Croatia, Serbia or Slovenian within the great world competition is a miracle and a fantastic result in itself. Mr. Zorislav Srebric, Croatian Football Federation Secretary General The Croatian Football Federation has always had extremely big football names, such as Ciro Blazevic, Mirko Jozic, Oto Baric, Cico Kranjicar. We are fortunate to have these great players return to be our coaches. We decided to put Slaven Bilic at the head of our national team firstly because he, as a football player, has reached the top with the clubs and teams for which he played. Secondly, because he has showed exceptional quality during with his coaching work; mainly with the young Croatian teams. We have decided to make a brave move and it has proved to be the right one. He chose his assistants, all ex and successful football players from Croatia: Robert Prosinecki, Asanovic, Jurcevic and Mrmic, collectively they make a great team that works well together. The conversation continues with Slaven Bilic, once an exceptional player and now an exceptional coach. He was welcomed by the players and accepted as their coach even though not long ago, he was their teammate. 5

3 The Authority of knowledge As a coach I am trying not to just be a tactician. The job of a coach is like a mosaic, composed of segments. I m trying to be as good as I can in all those segments, to be good as a motivator and psychologist, and as a critic. The question of authority was questioned by my coming to the top of Croatian Football, because I was a team mate to the majority of the players I now coach. However, in my opinion there are two kinds of authority in football: one is a dictator the other is about knowledge. I prefer the later. The freedom in the game My players play modern football based on whether we are attacking or defending. Each of them has an obligation which he tries to fulfill as best as he can and yet he has enough freedom to show his individual qualities. Only by excellent organization in the game and by doing all the basics on the field, one can reach freedom, improvisation and maximum capacity. With the organization within a system and template in the game, the opponent s goal can be reached, but the final shot or killer pass can be the result of freedom, improvisation and the momentary flash of imagination from one of our players and cannot be realized by the system alone. But, for me, the pure freedom on the field without any obligations to the game would be anarchy. Psychological pressure According to my opinion Psychological pressure is necessary, because only under pressure a does man gives his maximum. I mean motivational - positive pressure. If the pressure is negative then it disastrous in the game. Considering the fact that we cherish offensive game, positive pressure that motivates players, helps us a lot in the offensive phase. I like it when my players keep the ball as long as they can although I believe that the base of every team is in defense. Every player has his obligations in defense. Sometimes we defend with 10 players but after successfully defending they have to get into transition mode very quickly. But the defense is the base; certain defense gives you a privilege for momentary and successful offense. So, I put a ladder of demands of the game in front of me and my players and I have it very high, and with motivation and professional relationships, players and the expert back up from the Croatian FA helps us achieve our goals. For this kind of total football the players must be extremely well prepared physically and motivationally and to hold the maximum concentration in the game during the whole 90 minutes. The system If it is possible I try to defend and attack with as more players as I can. As I think the system in the game is about the movement of 10 players across the length and width of the field. If I play against an opponent who is equal to our qualities, I often use four players in the last line as a base. There was opinion that our team cannot play to a system in Croatia. That persisted for a long time and was the attitude of some our elder colleagues. However I think that was just fear about something new which can often appear and an excuse for negative results. I looked at what we could do, because of the systems our players play at their clubs, outside of Croatia. I have such players that can rotate during a game. They are so qualitative and intelligent and with a little practice we have reached the level that we can do a lot of rotation without personnel 6

4 changes. During the game we can easily transform from the system into or One thing is certain, the quality of the players determine the system of the game. With high quality players, well prepared and motivated the system can be the most closed and the most opened system of the game. The work with Croatian National Team I see myself as a club coach. To be a coach of the national team is an honor and privilege and this job I m doing now will be the highest achievement for me. Being a coach of the national team is the greatest thing, nevertheless I see myself as a club coach. The coach has more possibilities in a club. He has an opportunity to choose players he wants to work with, and he works with those players preparing them every day. The preparation lasts much longer and there are a larger number of matches where a coach can put his ideas into practice. The work at international level is much harder. The players arrive 5 days before very important games, usually qualification games or big competitions and there are just a small number of matches. There shouldn t be too much information when working with the national team, there must be a plan. The players selection should be done first, those who don t play together must be integrated to live and function as one team. The players should be informed on what they are expected to do and should be convinced of the aims and that I also believe in those aims. When I convince them of that then I have to work with them there is no time for improvisation and searching for something, there is simply no time for something like that when you work with the national team. At the beginning it is very hard, but further along we are just upgrading the thing we have already practiced. The communication with the players is very important, to speak with the players and their club coach and to analyze their work every day. The players must be convinced they can realize the aims and every coach must remind them on that and convince them every day. As a trainer I m trying to do with my players the things that I liked to do with my coaches. I practice that with a bit of modification and applied to our conditions. As a player I didn t like long meetings before the very game. Every day, in the preparatory period for the game I always hold a meeting, but just a short one before the game. Then I inform the players what we are going to do in the training and why we are doing that, considering our opponent. This lasts 10 minutes no longer but during these 10 minutes I meet them with their opponent and what they should expect on the field and what will be asked of them. Two days before the game we watch the DVD on our opponent, explain the tactics and comment on the game so at the end day of the match our meeting is just a summary of the things we already know. I believe that this is a better way than to hold the players in suspense for a long time and then tell them before the very game what they are expected to do. It is much better to give them information step by step and give them enough time to prepare themselves for the following match. We analyze every opponent. We respect every opponent and we have quite a serious approach to every opponent. We are trying to impose ourselves on the field and not to give up of our basic principles of the game no matter who is the opponent and what kind of game he plays. We have so many quality players who can play and can change the system or the game 7

5 without any personal changes and this is one of the greatest qualities of this team. If we see during the game that it is necessary and possible, on my signal my players change their positions quickly, which can surprise the opponent and in that way we scored many goals. I have complete trust in my players and they have in me. The task during the game Every player has his place. He knows very well what that place means, what kind of requirements and obligations are placed there. A player has his role, which he has to fulfill on the field no matter, whether he is playing against weaker or much stronger opponent. A player must try as hard as he can to completely fulfill the requirements. A player is not a robot, of course and he cannot play all the time without mistakes but we strive to eliminate those mistakes and that the concentration of the players lasts throughout the 90 minutes. Sometimes I warn the players to pay attention to an opposition player and to help each other depending on the style of his game. These are changed from match to match, but I never do strict marking of players and send only some players to do the task. Our tactics can vary but never drastically. Associates The back room team I chose myself. This was one of the conditions of the negotiations with President Markovic. My only condition was to be independent in what I am doing and to choose my team alone. He accepted that. If that condition hadn t been accepted I would not have taken the job. That is my team of people and everyone is of the same importance, even the doctor is an important factor in making the system work. I haven t taken them because they are my friends but because they are professionals and The pressure is huge. It is present despite our isolation during the preparations 8

6 experts, the people whose vision match mine in 90% of cases. Asanovic a proven football expert, my team mate from the national team, Prosinecki - the great name of Croatian football, a man who did a remarkable job with FC Zagreb, a hardworking man and an enthusiast, Jurcevic- a exceptional coach. Mrmic- a exceptional goalkeeper coach. This is a team of people with great energy and desire to work. We have a relationship based on trust and they have freedom to tell me their opinions about the work, without hesitation. However, up to now our opinions coincide and at the end we get the thing which is very good for the atmosphere in the team and the reason for that is because we are friends. We don t meet each other just in our jobs, we hung out years ago. That is shown to be positive, and that atmosphere was transferred to the players in the team. We usually work in two groups: in one there is Prosinecki and me and in the other Asanovic and Jurcevic. Mimic works with the goalkeepers alone. Everyone is in charge for his part of the job, and it is done very well. In our work there aren t any problems and among us there aren t any secrets. The pressure of publicity during the build up and matches The pressure is huge. It is present despite our isolation during the preparations. Nevertheless, pressure in certain cases, as I mentioned earlier, can be helpful. I emphasize it. I emphasize the pressure that influences players as a moving force. The players have responsibility to fulfill their requirements in the training as well as in the match. I am under great pressure too, it influences me quite positively and it makes me do my job even better. If I notice that the pressure has a rather negative effect on one of my player then I talk to him. I try to explain to him to take over the risk in the game, to act freely in the field and that only by playing free one can reach the success. There were such conversations, especially with younger players who are sometimes impressed by the greatness of their team mates and importance of the following match so they play in their shell and don t give their maximum. Everything could be solved by talking and that can be an extremely good injection of self-confidence for each player. I m not here to torture the players; I talk to them about everything. I believe that the coaches who don t speak with the players and who try to make an impression by screaming at them, do not have enough knowledge and that is the very reason why they avoid open conversation with the players. 9

7 9v9 (5+4 : 5+4) Organization: - Field size: 16m by 16m with goals and goalkeepers - 9 players on each half of the field (4 defenders on own half and 5 forwards on opponents half) Progression: - Blue team starts the attack against the red team on their own half of the field - After a finish (goal, shot on goal, loss of possession) red team will attain possession Tasks: - Defenders: line defense - Forwards: finish on goal Variation: - One defender may join the attack on other side of the field, creating a 6v4 situation - Finishing game 9v9 4v4+4 Organization: - Field size: 30 x 20 m - Three teams: blue, red, yellow - 4 players each team (two teams in the field, one team outside of the field) Progression: - 4v4 with the objective to maintain possession - Team in possession can use players outside from team 3 for combinations (8v4). Variations: - 1 more neutral player in field, who joins team in possession - 5v5 (+5) - 2 touches Coaching: - Fast plays Quick reactions Fast combination play Changing sides Crossing and finishing Organization: C 3 B Variation: 5 4 A Progression: - Player A dribbles (1) and shoots on goal from m (2), he remains in that position - Player B dribbles the ball (3) and passes to player A (4), who back passes (5) to incoming player B (6), who shoots on goal from18-20 m (7) - Players A and B cross one another in their runs and enter the penalty area (8) where they receive a cross from player C (9). One of them receives the pass and finishes on goal (10) 6 1 1/2 field Goal with goalkeeper Players start play from center circle and each player has a ball (A and B) Player C also has a ball - Add a defender in the penalty area with high or medium intensity defense Coaching: - Timing - Quality crossing - Precision 10

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