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African expansion excites former Tout Puissant Mazembe coach Patrice Carteron

Former TP Mazembe and Mali coach Patrice Carteron has backed the expansion of the African Nations Cup and World Cup tournaments, and believes that a "well prepared' side from Africa could lift the global crown.

Carteron led Mali to third at the Nations Cup finals in 2013 and won the African Champions League with Mazembe in 2015.

He has now been brought in at United States second-tier side Phoenix Rising by long-time friend Didier Drogba, but remains a keen follower of African football and believes that at present the continent is short-changed when it comes to World Cup places.

That will change for the 2026 finals when Africa will go from their current five slots to nine when the tournament is expanded from 32 to 48 teams.

"I think everybody in Africa is progressing and right now you have a lot of very good teams competing," Carteron tells KweséESPN.

"For Africa to only have five countries going to the next World Cup, in my opinion, when we see the level of the group qualification, it is terrible because countries like Morocco, Ivory Coast are fighting in the same group.

"Ghana won't go to the World Cup because they had to face Egypt, a good team too, but for me right now, with the level of teams in Africa, we need to have more teams to go to the World Cup."

Africa makes up 54 of FIFA's 211 members, some 26 percent, but will still only make up 19 percent of the field at the 2026 World Cup. That is a slight rise from 17 percent at present.

Brazilian legend Pele famously stated that an African team would win the World Cup by the year 2000. He was well off the mark, but Carteron maintains it is possible.

Carteron says the standard of the game in Africa has risen to such an extent in recent times that it is possible for a team from the continent to be successful...with one proviso.

"I know that one day, if an African team is well prepared, I am sure they can do it," he said.

At the same time, Carteron believes the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has made the right decision to expand the Nations Cup from 16 to 24 teams for the next finals to be held in Cameroon in 2019.

"The African Cup of Nations is also a way for many countries to progress," he said. "So I am happy now that more teams can compete at the tournament."

Carteron was in charge of Mazembe when they defeated Algerian side USM Alger 4-1 on aggregate in the final of the 2015 Champions League, and is also in favour of CAF's decision to expand the group stages this year to 16 teams rather then eight previously.

"It is a change in the way to compete, in the past there was no quarterfinals and the top two went straight to the semi finals," Carteron continued. "I prefer the new way they have organised it, because in my opinion fewer big teams are eliminated before the quarter finals."

Now an interested spectator from afar, he says he is backing Egyptian eight-time winners Al Ahly to lift the crown this year.

"In my opinion Al Ahly [are the] favourites this season, but Wydad [Casablanca] looks strong too," he concluded.


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