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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Feeling Heat, Europe Drills Coaches

STOCKHOLM -- Europe's international soccer coaches have gathered in force in Sweden to lay down the strategies they and UEFA hope will keep the continent's teams on top of the world for the rest of the decade.


The European Football Union, wary of the speed with which African and Asian countries are closing in, have taken the unprecedented step of coaching the coaches in a bid to maintain Europe's superiority on the soccer pitch.


After filling seven of the eight quarterfinal spots at this year's World Cup, UEFA is determined to ensure that European teams dominate again at the 1998 finals in France.


Former Scotland coach Andy Roxburgh, who organized the first ever coaches' convention for UEFA, said: "Europe cannot afford to be complacent. We had a successful World Cup in America, but Africa and Asia are catching up, and FIFA are doing a lot of work with them.


"If Europe is complacent we could find ourselves in big trouble. The moment we think we have got it made, we are lost."


Roxburgh, who studied the World Cup in great detail, said: "The flaw with the European game is that while our players are quick, powerful and well organized, they are not as mobile as the African players, and they don't have the variety of skills.


"Most of the time they are solid, don't have mobility and are technically limited; missing elements which we should be encouraging. We have to go back to basics to maintain our place in the world order."


Some of the biggest names in soccer were in Stockholm on Tuesday and Wednesday to listen, learn and swap ideas and experiences in a two-day coaches' convention -- including the men who led three European sides into the semifinals at the World Cup. They were Italy's Arrigo Sacchi, whose team went so close to winning the World Cup final against Brazil; Tommy Svensson, who took Sweden to the semifinals for only the second time, and Bulgaria's Dimitar Penev, who led a country that had never won a match at a World Cup finals to the last four.


Terry Venables, appointed England coach after it failed to reach the World Cup finals, and charged with winning the European championship in England in 1996, said Europe's top teams must continue to adapt and improve their game or face possibly having to sit in the back seat of soccer.


"Other countries are catching up very quickly and if you don't go forward in this game you go backwards," he said.


"European countries did themselves proud at the World Cup in America, but we're being told it's not a time to rest on our laurels and say now we've achieved everything.


"Everybody here's in the same boat, we all have similar problems and we can discuss them and if we can learn anything at all from that it's got to be worthwhile."Roxburgh, UEFA's full-time technical director, has designed a series of seminars based on World Cup tactics aimed at sparking new ideas among the coaches.


"This is basically an educational exercise and we have brought them together to collectively examine the World Cup and what happened. We must keep ahead of the trends and what is happening.


"The game is changing all the time, constantly moving ahead with many subtleties."