Keith Andrews takes on Neymar Jr's Five
Keith Andrews admits his Balls.ie team used a few cheeky tactics in the Neymar Jr's Five qualifiers but they just weren't quite good enough for Brazil.
Former Irish soccer player, Keith Andrews, may have multiple caps to his name and indeed he was the youngest captain ever for Wolverhampton Wanderers, but there can be no denying that his career challenge was trying to coach the Balls.ie team to victory in Neymar Jr's Five 2017.
Eager to head to Brazil, but knowing they didn’t quite have the in-house skills to get there, Balls took on Keith in a bid to heighten their chances. However, despite Keith’s best efforts to kick the lads into shape, they didn’t make it past the qualifying rounds – better luck next year lads!
We caught up Keith to find out more about his Neymar Jr's Five experience and what tips he would give to the teams who are due to battle it out for the plane tickets to Brazil.
You were player-manager on the Balls.ie team for Neymar 2017. How did you land role?
I do bits and bobs for Balls.ie, so they contacted me asking if I would give them a dig-out to try and get them to Brazil. To be honest, I don’t think that was ever going to happen with the squad that they had and I think they’d be the first to admit that as the overall standard in the tournament is pretty high.
I played a few of the games, gave them a few pointers. It was a great event and we enjoyed it, but we were never going to get very far.
How far did you get?
We got to the semi-finals of our event. We won one, drew one and lost one in the group stages, then won our quarter-final but the semi-final was the end for us I’m afraid.
What did you make of the overall format of the tournament?
It is really tough as you lose a man for every goal you concede. It took a bit of time to get used to. We managed to get the opposition teams down in the first couple of games which was a big advantage. It is also difficult to score due to the goal size. It’s not just a five-a-side pure and simple, you need to think about things a little bit more. As the tournament went on, we started to get to grips with it.
What attributes do you reckon a team needs to succeed at Neymar?
I think you need people that can score goals and you also need a little bit of individual brilliance to unlock defences if you are playing a team that are negative and set up to just defend. Equally, you need to be able to keep the opposition out. If you can get a goal first you can really capitalise on playing against a team with a man less.
Did you encourage any cheeky tactics on the Balls.ie team?
I went into it just for fun but as the competition progressed I got a bit more competitive. By the third game, which we lost, I was beginning to get a bit wound up so I gave the team a few pointers on how we could maybe bend the rules a little bit.
What tips would you give players who are about to battle it out for the trip to Brazil?
The biggest thing is to play as a team. You have to make sure it’s not all about individuals. You need that little bit of talent - if someone can score goals or create that bit of magic then great - but it’s essential that you play as a team. If you do go down to four or even three men you have to stay together. Utilise your substitutions too!
Who would be on your dream five-aside team?
Paul McGrath, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Original Ronaldo and Iniesta.