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‘We have to dream’, former Super Eagles Troussier says, backing World Cup expansion

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Former Super Eagles’ coach Philippe Troussier talks during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo May 25, 2010. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File photo

Philippe Troussier, the well-travelled French coach who qualified the Super Eagles to France ‘98 and has been in charge of eight mostly minor national teams over his long career, has thrown his weight behind the expansion of the World Cup finals to 48 sides from 2026.

The 68-year-old Parisian, who earned the nickname the ‘White Witch Doctor’ while working with teams in Africa before leading Japan at the 2002 World Cup finals, believes the move will bring positive benefits far beyond the confines of the game.

“It will create a big impact, not only for the countries that are able to go to the World Cup, but it will develop the country,” Troussier, who was recently appointed as Vietnam coach, told Reuters.

“When you know your country has no hope, even less than 1% to go to the World Cup, why develop the pitches? Why pay a foreign coach? Why start a technical programme for the youth?

“You have no dream. And we have to dream. We have to hope.”

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Plenty of traditionalists are unhappy at the increase in the size of the tournament from the 32 teams that have contested every World Cup since 1998, arguing the quality of the competition will be diluted as a result.

For the likes of Troussier, who has coached mainly in Africa and Asia over the last 35 years, the prospect of more nations from outside Europe and South America qualifying for the finals is a major positive.

“With 48 teams, eight in Asia and especially in Southeast Asia, then teams can dream,” he said.

“Personally I support this project.”

Despite the huge popularity of football in the region, no Southeast Asian nation has qualified for the World Cup since Indonesia – then the Dutch East Indies – made an appearance at the finals in 1938.

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Troussier has been tasked with changing that as he looks to build on the work done by Korean Park Hang-seo, who took Vietnam through to the final phase of Asian qualifying for the first time in 2021.

“That’s why the Vietnam Football Federation have created a special budget and frankly I have all the facilities to complete my job and they believe in me,” he said.

“They provide to the national team all my requests. I really have enjoyed my moment here and I feel like I did when I was in Japan.”

POWERFUL NATIONS

Troussier believes the enlarged format, which begins with the 2026 World Cup in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, could also work to the advantage of traditionally powerful nations, many of whom have stumbled during the group phase at the tournament.

“I understand when people ask why you would want the World Cup to go to 48 teams,” he said

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“But in this case we have to consider the real World Cup will not start at the first stage, because how many big teams will go out like they did in the old format?”

Troussier points out that defending champions France were eliminated in the group phase in 2002 while Spain and Germany were knocked out early in 2014 and 2018 respectively having won the trophy four years earlier.

“At the beginning of the process the high-level teams need time,” he added.

“In this format they can make it a warm-up and that’s why we can consider the real World Cup will start after two weeks.

“Every four years it is a big festival and if you’re a small country you can work a lot and have a lot of hope. For me this process is important to develop youth, to develop football infrastructure, coaches. I think it is important.”

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-Reuters

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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World Cup

Can of worms discovered in Super Eagles camp

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

All is not well at the moment with the Nigeria’s Super Eagles who have gone seven World Cup qualifying matches since November 2021 without a win.

The dwindled fortunes contrast sharply for a team noted before now as the African sides with the longest unbeaten streak in the World Cup qualifiers. At time, they were unbeaten since losing through a late goal to Angola in Luanda on 20 June 2004 till 10 November 2017 when their 1-1 draw with Algeria was converted to a 3-0 forfeiture owing to NFF featuring an unqualified player. At  the time, Super Eagles had raked 35 unbeaten run. At another time from 2012 to 2013, the team had an unbeaten run of 18 matches from 3 June 2012  when they beat Namibia 1-0 in Calabar to 21 June 2013 when they were beaten 2-1 by Uruguay in a FIFA Confederations match in Brazil.

 Yet the same outfit has turned laborious after losing its flairs. A source close to Finidi George told Sports Village Square that the coach complained that the NFF just heaped all the blames of the team’s current precarious situation on him while exonerating the players.  

  He also reportedly remarked that the NFF did nothing to mobilise crowd support for the Super Eagles in the back-breaking encounter with Benin Republic in Abidjan despite the presence of large Nigerian community in the Ivorian commercial capital city.

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 A Benin Republic sports journalist confirmed this to Sports Village Square. The journalist remarked that it was true that there “were not many Nigerians at the Félix Houphouet Boigny stadium even though Nigeria has a strong community in the Ivory Coast.  I see that the defeat against the Republic of Benin really hurts.”

  Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, the President General of the Nigeria Football and other Sports Supporters’ Club (NFSP) had earlier made the same assertion on the neglect of crowd mobilisation for the Super Eagles and that those who made it to Uyo and had auto accident on their way back were not even given a mention by the NFF.

 He had since 1991 established the first of the international cells of the supporters club. They were not mobilised for the game against Benin Republic.

 On players attitude, a member of the NFF confirmed that the Super Eagles camp in Uyo was loose as players went to camp with their girl friends.

 That could also explain their dismal forms in the back-to-back destiny shaping encounters with South Africa and Benin Republic.

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World Cup

BREAKING! Finidi George formally resigns

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Nigeria Super Eagles’ coach, Finidi George has resigned from his post as Super Eagles’ coach, two days after the Nigeria Football Federation announced it was going to employ a foreign technical adviser.

A source close to Finidi told Sports Village Square that Finidi sent his resignation letter to Ibrahim Gusau “3o minutes ago.”

 Finidi was said to be livid that the NFF leadership met with the sports minister two days ago, but failed to mention that players reported late to the camp and that they didi nothing to mobilise Nigerians in Cote d’Ivoire to come out to support the Super Eagles in last Monday’s match with Benin Republic.

“He complained that the NFF heaped all the blames on him”, said the source.

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  Calls to NFF officials to verify the information were not answered.  

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World Cup

UPDATE: NFF may spare Finidi George

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Under fire Super Eagles’ coach, Finidi George may excape sack afterall. A source close to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) told Sports Village Square that Finidi may not be sacked.

 He would however work under the foreign technical adviser that the football governing body is planning to hire in the next few weeks.

  The source who was privy to the Wednesday’s ‘hybrid mode’ meeting of the NFF informed that Finidi George will be designated as ‘Chief Coach’ while the expatriate will be the technical adviser.

It is however unclear how the NFF will foot the wage bill of the technical adviser, who may also come with his personal crew as Finidi George  also already have his own foreign assistants.

There is also no word on the loud absence of Daniel Amokachi who was designated as Finidi George’s assistant, but failed to show up at the Super Eagles’ camp leading to the ill-fated World Cup match day 3 and 4 encounters with South Africa and Benin Republic.  

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