We’re strong as a team

Monday, October 26, 2020



At the Shakhtar v Inter UCL pre-match press conference, Shakhtar manager Luis Castro spoke about the conclusions from the last meeting, the discipline, the absence of Moraes and the squad selection

- In the match against Real Madrid you played defensively and won it. Against Vorskla - offensively, but the result is unsatisfactory. Can we say that it’s now easier for Shakhtar to play defensively, on the counter?
- You need to understand that those are completely different matches. Against Vorskla, we took 14 shots on target against the opponents’ three attempts, we enjoyed the 70% possession, we fully dominated it, creating a huge number of chances. If I’m not mistaken, against Real Madrid we had about 43% possession versus Madrid’s 57%. There, we made more attempts on target and created more chances than Real did. In both games, we had the same will to win. We always kept the opponents’ goal in mind and tried to charge only forward. The biggest difference is that one team closed down - Vorskla dropped deep and didn’t give us any space to complete the attacks. Real Madrid played more offensively, and thanks to that we managed to create multiple chances in front of their penalty area, in the finishing zone. Different opponents, different footballers, different games - they just can’t be compared. But on both occasions we were competent. Unfortunately, we haven’t converted all the chances we created against Vorskla, but we did it better against Real Madrid - we managed to score three goals out of the seven opportunities we had.
- How do Matviienko and Pyatov feel?
- All is well, they are on the list for tomorrow's match.

- We all understand that 0-5 in August was too painful a blow for Shakhtar to be forgotten in two months. But people learn from any defeat. What lessons did you learn from that defeat at Inter, what’s the main conclusion?
- That situation proved to me what I already knew: in football, everything happens very suddenly. No one should ever think that everything’s been over, that we’ve already won, that we’ve claimed the win. I'm not saying that the match was under our control, but we were only one goal down at half-time. In the first half we had one chance, Inter had one too, they converted theirs, we didn't do ours. Early in the second half, we immediately had a great chance to equalize, and no one knows how the game would’ve developed further. Unfortunately, it didn’t work either. When Inter netted the second one, the game actually started slipping through our fingers, and we, of course, understood that it would be very and very difficult to claim a good result. But this reminds me of the situation in Zagreb, when in the 90+3 minute we were 1-3 down, but managed to equalize very soon. And the opportunity to make it to the Round of 16 was still available then. Anything can happen at any moment. Nothing has been decided. Every day I learn something new with my players and fellow coaches. It was the end of our European campaign last season, as I said, we got really strong Inter. What have I learnt? I learnt that you need to keep going against all odds. Lately, I’ve imagined it like this: there’s always a huge mountain or rock in front of you, you need to find a way - to dig a tunnel, go around it on the right or left, climb over the top ... Somehow you need to make it past it in order to continue following your path ... We’ve found this way. That season is over now, the new one has begun. We are in the Champions League. We have a goal for this season: as always, to try to become the champions of Ukraine, raise the domestic Cup and have a great European campaign. After having stumbled, you always need to get up, believe, work daily and just move forward, then you’ll succeed in everything. But only if you really dedicate yourself to your job.

- Now Shakhtar have one of the youngest teams in the Champions League. How difficult is it to maintain discipline and concentration for 90 minutes?
- Yes, that’s true as far as the young team is concerned. If I’m not mistaken, in the last match we had only three players over 22 - Dentinho, Marlos and Khocholava. But to be honest, I never look at my players’ ages. I always look at the attributes and, of course, at the period the player is going through in his career. Tomorrow we’ve got to face strong Inter who have been fighting for the title in the Italian Serie A, who hope to advance from the Champions League group stage in the top spot, all the guys will be really focussed. It’s always important that the team have a soul, a great will to win. If we work in a disciplined way, give our all while doing every exercise in training, we will be able to transfer this to the pitch and achieve success, we will show some quality play. I’m sure that the young guys will have some tremendous positive energy, desire and ambition to win the match. But besides this desire, great discipline, rigour and focus must be present, as well as dedication from the first to the last minute. Whether young or old, a team should always remain a team. There’s no single club in the world where one player rules instead of a team. We are all strong as one. It doesn't matter who has what status, what matches they have behind, what kind of experience they have or don’t have. If you have the attributes and you work for the good of the team, everything will work out for you. A team is the biggest power.
- How would you comment on the absence of Moraes at the team’s photo shoot? Do you count on him? When will we see him?
- Of course I do. In the games to follow. Just like in the rest of games. Moraes wasn’t present at the photo shoot that day because the medical department did not allow him to do so due to the fact that he had COVID-19. But, as far as I know, he will be present in the team photo.
- Which task is more difficult for you: to analyse the strengths of Inter and resist them or to identify 11 of your best performers? After all, after the game against Real Madrid and the return of your experienced footballers to the ranks, you got more headache.
- The most important thing is that we’ll try to select the most competent team for tomorrow. The guys will take to the pitch with a proper attitude, with an understanding of what they want to achieve in the match. What's the hardest part of coaching in the clubs where players have or have had COVID-19? There are some guys who have remained healthy, who play constantly within this tight schedule, respectively, they accumulate some fatigue. And there are other guys who tested positive and self-isolated for two weeks. Accordingly, they do nothing and don’t get prepared for matches. Someone needs more time to get back, someone is tired, and all this together creates a difficult situation. By the way, as for the guys who didn’t train for some time due to the coronavirus: testing negative in a few days doesn’t really mean that they are already doing well. No, there are many things that are not made public, but when health problems continue, you perfectly understand how this virus can affect the human body and what issues it may bring. So this, of course, makes our life very difficult. In any case, our team consists of super-competent guys who know perfectly well what to do, and our game will never be based on one or another player on the field. In any team, the main thing is a strong close-knit union and a general winning attitude. Of course, we are always stronger all together. Someone contributes more, someone less, but we are strong only when we’re a team.