KEIR RADNEDGE in MOSCOW: FIFA’s official observers are concerned that Africa and Asian federations still have a long way to go before their teams can play any more than bits parts at the World Cups.

No African team made it out of the group stage in the current 2018 finals in Russia and Japan were the only one of Asia’s five teams to reach the round of 16 where they were immediately knocked out by Belgium.

Former Nigerian star Emmanuel Amunike blamed the lack of youth development. This, of course, raises the question of how the African federations spend the millions of dollars of development monies handed out by FIFA.

Amunike, facing up to the fact that this was the first time no African team had escaped the opening group stage since 1982, told a technical study media briefing: “A lot of people were expecting African teams to progress beyond what they did in the last World Cup.

“But if we don’t see how we develop our youth we will continue to live on dreams. Dreams without a plan are an illusion. There’s a lot of raw talent but raw talent without polishing will not achieve anything.

“It’s also not just developing players in terms of training but educated players so they know how to interpret the game, how to make the right decisions, to take themselves to the next level.”

Similar concerns about the lack of progress in the Arab world football were expressed by Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira, a fellow member of FIFA’s World Cup technical study group.

This is an issue of particular focus now four years away from the first World Cup to be staged in the Middle East, in Qatar.

High expectations

Parreira, who won the World Cup as Brazil boss in 1994, said: “I worked [in the Arab world] for 14 years. The expectations in Arab football are very high and we tell them that while qualifying for the World Cup finals is a big achievement it’s not enough.

“They need to have stronger leagues and the patience to develop players and expose them regularly to international football. They look for results too quickly. One day it’s a Brazilian coach, another day a French coach, another day a Dutch coach. They have to concentrate on one school of football.

“So they need better structures, better leagues and serious work in developing coaches and young players otherwise they will always be missing something at this level.”