Philippe Troussier has opened up on how the expanded FIFA World Cup will impact football
Philippe Troussier, a French coach with extensive experience leading various national teams, has expressed his support for the expansion of the World Cup finals to include 48 teams starting in 2026. Known as the ‘White Witch Doctor’ during his time coaching African teams and leading Japan in the 2002 World Cup, Troussier believes that this change will have wide-ranging positive effects beyond just the sport itself.
“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.”
Many traditional football fans are not pleased with the expansion of the tournament, as it has been contested by 32 teams since 1998. They argue that the quality of the competition will suffer as a result.
However, for coaches like Troussier, who have mainly worked in Africa and Asia for the past 35 years, the increased number of nations from outside Europe and South America qualifying for the finals is seen as a significant advantage.
“With 48 teams, eight in Asia and especially in Southeast Asia, then teams can dream,” he said.
“Personally I support this project.”
Although football is highly popular in Southeast Asia, no country from the region has managed to qualify for the World Cup since Indonesia (then known as the Dutch East Indies) participated in the finals in 1938.
Troussier has been given the responsibility of altering this situation by building upon the progress made by Park Hang-seo, a Korean coach who guided Vietnam 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.”
Troussier thinks that the expanded format, starting from the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, could benefit strong nations that have previously struggled in the group stage of the tournament.
“I understand when people ask why you would want the World Cup to go to 48 teams,” he said.
“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?”
According to Troussier, France, who were the defending champions, were eliminated in the group stage in 2002. Similarly, Spain and Germany, who had won the trophy four years prior, were both knocked out early in 2014 and 2018 respectively.
“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.”