As the tournament progressed, an optimistic feeling settled in the players’ minds. They really believed they could be world champions.
And we followed our usual game plan. The only player we put an extra focus on was Philipp Lahm, who was pivotal to Germany’s offensive game, in the semi final.
We didn’t employ an extra defender to control Lahm’s offensive runs, though. Instead, we decided to start Pedro, meaning Lahm would have to be more vigilant. Pedro’s freshness turned out to be very beneficial to the whole team, and we won 1-0.
Now we were going through a historic moment for our players and the country. We were one step away from our target, of being champions of the world.
Many generations in the past had tried and been unsuccessful, but we had to alleviate the drama. In the days building up to the final, we were nothing more than footballers willing ourselves to be the best we could.
“We reminded the players that we were not soldiers. It was a World Cup final, and they must enjoy the game as footballers”
On the day itself, I got up ready to prepare for a game as usual. I had no worries about the emotional aspect of the day. It was a World Cup final. It would have been impossible to inject any more emotion into my players.
My staff and I reminded them that we were not soldiers. Many youngsters in Spain would give anything to be in their boots, and they must enjoy the game as footballers.
All the players were young but mature. Cesc Fabregas, to name one, had been Arsenal’s captain from a very young age. The majority all had long careers behind them. That made us confident.
The Netherlands had very experienced players in their squad. It was the third time they had reached a World Cup final, which meant a lot for a country that had never won the tournament. I would like to remember them for their technique and style.