WORLD CUP 2014 (JUNE 12 – JULY 13)
15 DAYS TO GO
He is one of the world’s greatest footballers, and was a big reason why Man United were so successful in the 1960s. Sir Bobby Charlton was also a key figure when England won the World Cup in 1966. Now a director at United, and a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, Charlton does not think Roy Hodgson’s men are good enough to win their second crown in Brazil next month, and also has doubts about the hosts.
1. The World Cup being played where it is, do you think the winners will come from these three South American countries – Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay – and if so, why?
Sir Bbooby Charlton: If I was choosing from all the ones, I think Uruguay and Argentina, and maybe Brazil.
Maybe Brazil don’t have the players and the fact that they are going to have to be performing at the top level may be a little bit beyond some of them. They all play in Europe so they have lots of experience. But I somehow don’t think Brazil can win the World Cup.
I think South Americans are very proud and when the World Cup comes to Brazil then they’re going to make sure they do their very best. They will be tough as boots.
2. Roy Hodgson has picked the 23 men whom he thinks can bring England success at the World Cup. Do you see any similarities in the team’s build-up to England 1966 and Brazil 2014?
I don’t think we ever dreamed of winning the World Cup, but it was in 1962 when the seeds for 1966 were planted.
I remember young players like Bobby Moore were coming into the action and there was a lot of real interest in the football that England were producing. We played quite a lot and we won quite a lot leading up to ’66. I remember thinking, when I was looking at the team that had been selected, this is as good as anybody’s.
Before the first ball was kicked, we did not talk a lot, we usually left that on the training ground. It was a tough World Cup, there were some really great teams playing, but we had been on tour and had beaten everyone. In 1963, I would say, England were very well positioned to do well in the World Cup.
The system was 4-3-3 and Alf Ramsay, who was the manager at the time, was convinced that was what we were best suited to, so that took a lot off your mind.
Players were picked to play (in that system) and a lot of managers would not have picked them: Players like Nobby Stiles, who was not an attractive footballer but he was a hard nut and we needed somebody like him; my brother, Jack, big centre-half, who could head everything all day; George Cohen, not a classical footballer, but he never was defeated by any of the wingers who used to go up against him; Bobby Moore, it was quite early for him to be a World Cup captain, but he was perfectly suited to it.
If you are going to win the World Cup, you have to get players with character. At the time, whenever 11 English players went onto the field, we would think, ‘it’s going to take a good team to beat us’. and that turned out to be the case.
I felt from the start that we were going to win the World Cup. Ramsay had said yes, we will win the World Cup and everybody went ha-ha, you know, a few guffaws in the media but, nevertheless, after the first match, which was a 0-0 draw with Uruguay, I remember thinking, well, a draw, that’s going to be the most that we are ever going to concede.
3. Should Hodgson give youth its head in Brazil, especially with the pace they possess?
If you ask any young player, he would jump at the opportunity to play because it might never happen again.
The only thing that worries me is the shortage of actual world-class players. I remember Fabio Capello (former England manager) said that he did not have enough players. It’s unbelievable to think that the great England, with all the history that has gone on over the years, cannot get enough players together for specific tournaments. It is something that bothers me a lot.
I’m really quite pleased with a few of the players but, to think of us winning, probably no. I cannot in all honesty say that England will win. I am not against foreign players (in the English Premier League), but it means that if they are playing, we don’t have enough young players. We should play young players. You have to give them a chance, but it’s unbelievably difficult.
4. You are intimately involved with Manchester United. From what you’ve seen and perhaps the talks you’ve had with him, do you think Wayne Rooney is set to make a big and positive impact in Brazil?
Rooney is the only one who comes to mind when you think of as far as class players from England. Rooney will have to play. He’s just got that something extra. He will thrive on a successful performance in the World Cup.
A lot of the others are young, and they have an opportunity and they have something to prove, but it’s going to be difficult. The manager (Roy Hodgson) is very intelligent and he will know exactly what he has got to do and, although I don’t think England can win the World Cup, I don’t think England will be embarrassed, either.
I tell him (Rooney) that if anybody is going to beat my record for the number of goals scored (49 goals for England), it better be you, and I said, ‘so don’t let me down’, and he said okay. He’s young enough and he has the ability. When he scores, he likes the thought of it and he has a great attitude. If everything goes well and he is not injured, he will certainly be England’s great star. He has a quality that is made for a World Cup.
5. Who will be your star man at the World Cup?
Cristiano Ronaldo is a sensational player and I’m really, really envious when I see his talent because these days England cannot seem to produce that sort of quality.
He is just the most enjoyable player to watch. He tries all sorts of things. When he was with us (United), it was just magic. You know, he loves scoring goals. He’ll continue to do that. He’s a great, great player and Portugal are going to be a very strong outlet for the really great talent that Ronaldo has. He is just sensational. He is so fast, so inventive, just magic. I wonder if ever the day would come when maybe he would come and play for us again. I don’t think it will happen, but you never know.
Lionel Messi is a little bit different. He plays with his team. He scores fantastic goals and he will be a big factor at the World Cup, I have no doubt about that. He brings players into it, whereas Ronaldo will do things only as an individual.
6. You are very passionate about your work with Laureus?
Hopefully, when the members of the Laureus World Sports Academy get together, we come up with some of the best projects in the world which we can support. Mine, in particular, is landmine clearance. Young people in particular seem to suffer most and if one day we can eliminate mines, that would be just fantastic.
At Laureus, we support lots of different projects. I was in Hong Kong recently, at a rugby project to help young people keep out of trouble, and when you speak to the youngsters you get a fantastic response. There are lots and lots of really difficult subjects that need our attention.