“Morocco was amazing” during this World Cup
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Arsène Wenger, director of football development at the International Federation (Fifa), made a preliminary technical assessment of the group stage of the 2022 World Cup, this Sunday, December 4 in Doha, with former German striker Jürgen Klinsman. The former French coach distributed some good points to several teams.
RFI: Arsène Wenger, African teams have accumulated 24 points in the group stage of this 2022 World Cup. This is a record. They also have two representatives in the round of 16. Does this mean that African football has improved?
Arsene Wenger : African football is well represented here. I hope that African football will be more represented in the World Cup. I am personally involved in a talent development project in Africa. More importantly, Africa will have more representatives at the next World Cup: nine or ten. Therefore, we expect Africa to be one of the main contenders in the World Cup in the future.
What do you think of Tunisia’s victory over France?
Tunisia was heavily criticized before this match against France. In my presentation, I talked about teams that learn quickly and adjust quickly. Tunisia is a good example. The Tunisians found a good balance in their third meeting. But it was too late. They put on a great performance. I think’they deserve to win this game.
As for the Moroccan team, they are amazing, absolutely amazing in every game. I can’t wait to see how they perform in the knockout stage.
What can you say about the lack of preparation time of the teams for this World Cup? Do you think that is one of the reasons why there have been so many upsets in this group stage?
When you come to the World Cup, you know you can’t lose the first match. Teams with experience from previous tournaments and getting results, like France, England or Brazil, played well in this first game. Like mentally prepared teams, with a mindset to focus on the competition, not on political demonstrations.
Is it possible to go back to three player changes per match, instead of five?
No, no one wants to go back to three changes (laugh). I also want to remind you that there are only three possibilities to make these five changes. There are not five possibilities to change five players. There are even requests to make more changes. I think there is a small topic there. Because sometimes changing too many players can destroy the structure of a team. It used to take longer to make these five changes. That’s why we added extra time. This is a great way to make up for lost game time. Previously, we added 30 seconds of gameplay each time the player changed. However, now we consider the actual lost playing time. We’re not going back to three changes but we need to add playing time.
Do you plan to do a report on the effect in technical and physical terms that all this extra time has on matches?
Currently, we have not calculated it. That’s why we didn’t introduce ourselves. And, in general, what we have shown here is that it does nothing in terms of efficiency because we have more extra time played and fewer goals scored. [durant le temps additionnel, Ndlr]. So far, there is no real effect on the outcome of a match.
A lot of twists and great stories happened in the final matches of this group stage, which took place simultaneously. For the next World Cup, in 2026, do you still want to switch to a formula of 16 groups of 3 teams?
For the next World Cup, with 48 teams, it has not been decided whether there will be 16 groups of three countries, 12 groups of four or some other formula. We are not in a position to make a decision yet. This will be the decision of the FIFA Council. Will pick it up next year, I guess.
Finally, can you say a word about Pelé, whose state of health has caused concern in recent times?
Pele He was my idol when I was young. We’ve all seen the news that she’s not looking too good. We obviously wish him a speedy recovery. I spoke to his agent not long ago. He is not as pessimistic as the news we have heard. That’s why I was surprised and shocked when I found out that he was not good. His agent told me he was going to the hospital but that he was out of danger. I hope he’s right. I hope he will be fine.
Statements taken at a press conference