Ottmar Hitzfeld, winner of seven Bundesliga titles and one of only two coaches to have won the Champions League with two different teams, has found coaching a national side can be a lonely experience.
One of Europe's most successful coaches, the 61-year-old German will take part at his first World Cup when he leads Switzerland into the fray in South Africa, having made the transition in 2008 after nearly 25 years in club football.
Hitzfeld agreed with former Brazil and current South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who once said the national team coaches, who only see their players a few times a year, had become "selectors" rather than trainers of teams. "I feel quite the same as he does," Hitzfeld, who won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Bayern Munich four years later, said.
"National teams play about 10 to 12 games in year. But I never get used to finding myself all alone the morning after games. I want to analyse the game with the team but there are no players, they have all left the team hotel to get back to their clubs."
However, he has not lost his appetite for victory. "The big difference is the rhythm of games but still there is so much pressure on a coach. I am still hungry, I still hate defeats, there is no substitute for victories."
Hitzfeld's team do not share their coach's record for success, most recently being knocked out of Euro 2008 in the first round despite co-hosting the competition. They were also knocked out in the first round of Euro 2004, although at the 2006 World Cup they reached the second round, lost on penalties to Ukraine and left Germany without having conceded a goal.
However, Hitzfeld would not entertain suggestions his side, who face the European champions Spain, Chile and Honduras, were playing the role of underdogs. "What are you talking about?" said Hitzfeld. "The expectations in Switzerland for the 2010 World Cup are very, very high.
"Having taken part three times in a row in final tournaments the Swiss national team has spoilt the supporters a little. They forget that Switzerland is still a small country in football terms and must make a big effort to stay at a high level."
Hitzfeld has long had Swiss connections. He was born just over the border from Basle, speaks the local dialect, spent part of his playing career in Switzerland and began coaching there. His international career nearly came to an end when Switzerland lost a World Cup qualifier 2-1 at home to Luxembourg in only his second game, prompting some calls for him to be fired.
But the team bounced back, living up to the national stereotype for precision and reliability by winning their next five qualifiers and scoring twice in each one to top a group which also included Greece, Latvia, Moldova and Israel.
One of the big frustrations for any national team coach is seeing top players relegated to the substitutes' bench at their clubs and, in Hitzfeld's case, that has happened to key defender Philippe Senderos.
After struggling to get a game at Arsenal, Senderos joined Everton – only to get injured. But Hitzfeld said he could still pick the 25-year-old. "This is something which is decided on the spur of the moment," Hitzfeld said. "He lost his place in the Arsenal team, but he kept on training in London, which means to a high standard. We don't have a choice like Germany or England. But, of course, I'd love very much to see him play every game for Everton now."Reuse content