Cyprus coach Charalambos Christodoulou spoke about his desire "to make Cypriot fans proud of their team" after being tasked with reviving the nation's football fortunes.
Article top media content
New Cyprus coach Charalambos Christodoulou was quick to calm expectations ahead of this month's UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying draw, stressing "miracles do not happen overnight".
Cyprus have endured a bumpy ride since recording four wins and an outstanding 1-1 home draw with Germany in 2008 qualifying. Their only notable scalps of recent times include a 4-1 defeat of Bulgaria in 2009 and a 1-0 victory over Iceland three years later – a far cry from the unprecedented success enjoyed by the island's domestic sides that frequent the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.
After Nikos Nioplias failed to revive the nation's fortunes, the Cyprus Football Association (KOP/CFA) turned to former AEL Limassol FC, Olympiakos Nicosia FC and Doxa Katokopia FC boss Christodolou, who remains grounded. "This new challenge needs support and a lot patience from everyone," he told the CFA's official magazine.
"We are entering a new era for the national team and it's an ambition for both myself and my associates to make Cypriot fans proud of their national team. That won't be easy but nothing in football ever is. If I didn't believe I could succeed, I wouldn't have taken the job."
Installed in January, the 46-year-old is eager to get going and instil a renewed sense of national pride. "The first thing we need to change is the mentality of the players, especially when it comes to the way they see the national team," he said. "We need to convince players the national team is their priority and to ensure that footballers in Cyprus really want to represent their country rather than it being a mere obligation."
During stints at AEL, Olympiakos and Doxa, Christodoulou cultivated a reputation for getting the best out of players and possessing astute tactical awareness. In 2012, his reputation rocketed after he steered AEL to their first Cypriot title since 1968 and a place in the UEFA Europa League group stage the following season. Fame has not gone to his head, however.
"I am aware that turning things around won't be easy, but this is something that needs to start from the dressing room. We need to be a family and all have a common goal. That is the way I have always worked," he said. "The family environment in the dressing room is the cornerstone of a successful team. I hope to repeat that with the national team and that is why we are now working towards laying the right foundations."
Looking forward to the 23 February draw in Nice, Christodoulou said: "For us there are no easy opponents. All the other teams will consider us a nice draw." He also sees promise in the new qualifying format, yet is not about to fall victim to complacency, adding: "The fact there are additional qualifying slots is an extra incentive for everyone. We need to be careful that we don't start talking big and getting too ambitious. Right now, our priority must be to work hard."