Young Qataris get used to Troussier doctrine
'I'm coming here with the cup in my pocket,' the tall, elegant Frenchman stated emphatically. As an opening gambit, it is bold and brash as the owner of the statement. Philippe Bernard Troussier, whose Qatar side open their Asian Cup campaign against Indonesia in the Workers Stadium tonight, is back in the limelight defending 'his' trophy, the one he won with Japan in 2000. 'I have the recognition in Asia and I have quite a high profile in the region,' stated the 49-year-old.
'It means that quite a lot is expected of me and my team. It's a challenge and at the same time I have to share my cup with Japan.' Troussier's detractors, and there are many stretching from Burkina Faso through Nigeria, South Africa and Japan, would quickly point out that the Frenchman is reluctant to share an inch of the limelight with anyone.
In Qatar it seems he may be close to having outstayed his welcome already, with the whispering around the camp being that he has lost the players.
'If you ask them whether they are happy maybe they will say 'No, the coach is too tough. We used to be able to go out sightseeing, drink beers, eat some cake, have girls in our rooms - and now we can't.' But the test is whether they have the mentality on the pitch and in training,' said the man still known as the White Witchdoctor from his time in Africa.
'For me, their attitude has been 100 per cent perfect. They are ready to die on the pitch. It was the same in Japan. The players would complain in private - but look at how they played and what they achieved. I think perhaps they made more sacrifices mentally than they realised.'
If the players have made sacrifices, they have also had to be willing to adapt because Troussier makes no apologies for sticking to his methods.
'Whether that's an advantage or a disadvantage I don't know. I come with my team. I have my machine - my philosophy. The players can be adapted in one minute. I'm coming with my aggressive management, my aggressive expectations, and if people don't understand they can go home.
'Players in my team are ready to make sacrifice and effort. We have worked very hard for one year. The team have proved to me that they are ready to die on the pitch.
'If players want to come to me to negotiate, to discuss I just say 'No'! There is no place for that. It was my system in Japan, it was my system in Nigeria, it was my system in Burkina Faso and it is my system in Qatar.'
Troussier has shed almost all of the names from the original squad presented to him when he first arrived in the Gulf, and, with the exception of Qatar's most capped player Jassim Al Tamimi, is working with a young group whose ages are either side of 20.
'New strategy. New blood, the team will be more aggressive, they will play more collectively. They have no experience of major tournaments but I'm feeling pretty good. The key point of this team is to start well. The match against Indonesia is crucial. If we play at the level I know we can play, then I'm confident we can get the result that we need.'
'When I won the cup in Lebanon with Japan, all the team was a youth team. I think there were only two players from the 1998 World Cup. Look now at Japan. For me they are one of the top teams in the world. All their players are 26, 27, it's a peak time for them now. It's a senior team.'
Whether Troussier could manage that team now is an interesting point. The criticism of him is that he has no rooms for stars in his team - other than himself. As he did with Japan, Troussier has done away with many of Qatar's established names and brought in youngsters who he can mould to his design - or it could be argued are less likely to chafe at his abrasive style.
If the rumblings from behind the scenes in Qatar are accurate, it would seem Troussier's youngsters will have to produce something quite remarkable at the Asian Cup to avoid being axed.
'Expectation from all nations is the same,' he said. 'If you ask the president of the Indonesian Football Federation what he wants he will say 'I want to win the World Cup'. If you ask the same question to the 16 teams coming here they will say the same - 'We want to win the Asian Cup'.
'Maybe the coach of Indonesia will be fired if he doesn't win, maybe the coach of Iran too. We don't know. For me, I have a great experience of the human potential and of football. I know that logically, in theory, Qatar shouldn't win the Asian Cup. But I stress in theory. Because it's possible.'