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World Cup 2002 Preview - 19/04/02


Liverpool legend Alan Hansen answers your football questions in this BBC Forum

Giles Venn, England

Based on your own playing experiences you have often stated your belief that building a solid defence is sure to help gain success.

The Italians are considered to have the best back line in world football. With this in mind, how do you rate their chances at the World Cup?

Alan Hansen: If you look at the winners of the World Cup (apart from '66), it's the big four that have always won it. The big four used to be Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Italy. That's no longer the case now as France have replaced Germany. So, you can look at the big four and make a case for maybe three or four other sides to be outsiders but the winners will definitely come from the big four.

The Italians are very strong defensively. They showed in Euro 2000 how good defensively they are. They have great players, they are very well organised and they stand a good chance of winning the World Cup.

What happened was that in '98 the French showed that you can win the World Cup without a centre-forward. In '82 Brazil showed that you can't win the World Cup without a solid defence.

Mark Cousins, England

Can you describe how it feels to take part in a World Cup?

AH: Well it's the biggest stage of all. I'd played in European Cup finals and won championships before I went in '82 but the logistics, and everything about it make you aware you are part of something special.

I played against the Brazilians in '82, who were definitely the best team to have won the World Cup. You are playing against players and teams that are extra special. We got stuffed 4-1, but it was just great to play against, it was like an education.

You think you are half good and then you go and play against a side like that! When you talk about control and technique and pass and move they were just awesome.

And that's what the World Cup is all about, playing against the best players that there are.

Michael Moreno, United States

Do you think Michael Owen will be the star of the 2002 World Cup?

AH: Potentially he could be. He scored the goal four years ago in France against Argentina that was extraordinary. He's sharp, he can score and he doesn't worry about missing.

The boy can do anything, but to be the star of the World Cup you have got to get to the final and win it! The problem England have got is that if they don't win the group they will play the French and if they play them, they will be beaten.

Dafydd Humphreys, Wales

Who will you be secretly supporting, Alan? Please don't say England!

AH: Everybody likes Brazil and we want the Brazilians to come out. I played against them in '82 and if they can produce anything like that, the Brazilians have got something about them that is magical. The World Cup needs a brilliant Brazilian team.

They are always there or there about and ironically probably the worst team player wise won it in '94 but what we want is a Brazilian team that technically are brilliant to watch.

James Docherty, England

Do you feel that Manchester City have the infrastructure to survive life in the top flight? When you look at Manchester United they just seem to be worlds apart.

AH: I think if you are coming into the Premiership from the First Division you have got to be able to generate revenue. That's the most important thing.

You see time and time again when you come up; if you've got the money to strengthen your squad you've got a chance. If you come up and are struggling after three months you need the money to be able to buy somebody who can give you a bit of impetus.

Manchester City have got the big crowd support, which I think is vitally important. If you are coming up, to stay up, you have got to be a big club and there's no doubt about that at Manchester City.

They have got a manager who has got a great track record of bringing teams into the Premiership and exceeding themselves. Manchester City have been in the doldrums for a while, they came up and went straight back down again.

I've watched the current squad three or four times and I think that survival will be the first aim, but Keegan has got this way about him. If he buys another couple of players, they've got a great attacking side already and if they can improve defensively, then who knows what might happen!

I don't expect to see them in the top six but I think of all the teams that have come up in previous seasons, I think Manchester City are the biggest club. In modern football that is so important. If you are a big club you've got a better chance of survival.

Rob Harvey, Manchester

Are Leeds facing tough times ahead? What do you think the future holds if they fail to qualify for the Champions League?

AH: The manager says that he's under no pressure to sell. They have had a tough time this season on and off the pitch. What I always do is just look at the players, look at the best 11 they can put on the pitch. If you are talking about favourites at the start of next season, Leeds will be there.

Even though they won't finish in the top four this season, they will still be of the contenders next season. The reason for that is because of the individuals they have got.

Obviously next season they will start afresh and the problems they've had will hopefully have gone away for them. They are a young squad and if he can hang onto them, they will get better. They have got outstanding individuals and they have strength in depth.

If you look at the top five or six clubs and said who the best are, you would probably go Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal but a lot of people would like to have that Leeds' squad and I would be one of them.

Tara McBride, London

As a Spurs fan I had mixed feelings about Alan Sugar. He appeared to understand the business side of the game today, but lacked the passion on the pitch - are the two compatible?

AH: It's difficult to say, we've seen time and time again that the business side of things has to be well run.

I was fascinated to learn that Sugar spent more money net than any other chairman. It's incredible considering the public perception that he was tight fisted and he was more than prudent, and lacked ambition to take Tottenham to where the fans wanted them to be. To find out that he had spent something like 54m when he was in charge was amazing.

I think when people talk about ambition and talking to him, it might have seemed that he wasn't ambitious. But as the chairman he wanted the club to be the best and he gave every manager lots of revenue. I think the reality is that, that money was probably badly spent.

I think if Tottenham are going to be top four side, the fans and the club will need to get away from the philosophy of 'pretty football', that's got to go. When George Graham was there they complained, harking back to better days, but I think that's a fantasy.

I think that they have to educate the supporter into believing that the result is more important than the performance sometimes and I don't think they can accept that.

Steve Langley, England

You have often spoken about the fact that management holds no interest for you. Do you feel today's pressures of pleasing the public and the plc is too much to handle?

AH: You've got the financial constraints and pleasing the public and you've got the media side as well. I think that is the big thing that has happened in the last ten years.

Say you were the manger of Liverpool and you were going for the championship you might do an interview on the Friday night and you might do an interview every three or four weeks. Now these guys have got ten interviews everyday, the demands on the manager make it a very, very difficult job.

The media want the stories and the television companies want the stories and the papers want the story and means that it is everyday. Even after a match it's like an hour and half of media interviews. The pressures are intense, because the rewards for success and the penalty for failure are more and more.

Tim James, England

You often speak about the addiction that many feel to the game. Are you pleased to see Houllier back at Anfield so quickly or is his health still cause for concern?

AH: Each individual is different and as he himself says football is as important as breathing to him. These guys live and breathe football; they get something out of going to the training ground every day.

It's no surprise to see him back. His brother is a doctor and I'm sure he's taking all the necessary advice, I'm sure he's delegating more. At times he has looked really healthy, he's obviously lost a bit of weight. But he always knew that he was going to come back and it's great for Liverpool and the fans to have him back.

It will be great for him and Phil Thompson if they can win the league, but even if they don't do it, they've had a fantastic season.