Return to Russia in 2018 is tough for Cameroon, New Zealand
ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 27, 2017 08:48 AM
Cameroon coach Hugo Broos, left, opens his arms as he and his players protest, during the Confederations Cup, Group B soccer match between Germany and Cameroon, at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, Sunday, June 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Leaving Russia as last-place teams in their Confederations Cup groups, Cameroon and New Zealand are far from sure to return next year.
The World Cup rehearsal tournament had encouraging moments for both teams even if they did not win a game.
Now the path to qualifying for the World Cup in November looks no easier.
"It's not a good situation," Cameroon coach Hugo Broos acknowledged, looking to home-and-away games against Nigeria in a six-day spell starting Aug. 28.
"We are four points behind Nigeria. We will have to win, otherwise I think our chances will be not so high to be in Russia again next year," Broos said.
New Zealand's road to Russia is two playoff rounds. It must get past Oceania rival Solomon Islands in September to play South America's fifth-place team in November.
Lionel Messi and Argentina or Confederations Cup semifinalist Chile are possible opponents. Both are top 5-ranked teams and New Zealand will stay around No. 95 after three defeats here.
"I think you've seen in this tournament we can compete with these teams," New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson said after his team created several scoring chances yet lost 4-0 to Portugal on Saturday.
Hudson left as the more optimistic coach, and with more job security even just five months since Broos led Cameroon to a surprise Africa Cup of Nations title.
The 36-year-old Englishman expects his New Zealand team — which struggles to get fixtures against top teams — will improve facing world-class opponents in mid-season.
"We really were crossing our fingers," Hudson said of his Confederations Cup planning, "hoping we could physically do three games in eight days. If it's November, and it's a home-and away, we do it slightly differently and we're in better condition.
"We have got so much potential in us. It's only a matter of time before we start turning these results against top, top teams around."
The bright mood of Broos last week gave way to a darker outlook Sunday after a 3-1 loss to Germany.
"What happened here, I must say I was expecting it," the 65-year-old Belgian said. "We are one of the best teams in Africa but there is still a difference between us and modern football."
Few coaches survive several years with an African national team, and Broos already seemed to send a message to his bosses for the need to plan long term.
"We still live on our past successes," Broos cautioned about a Cameroon team that no longer includes players signed by top European clubs. "There is a lack of pitches, a lack of infrastructure.
"If we do qualify for the World Cup next year, we are going to have to start thinking about solving this problem."
Graham Dunbar is at www.twitter.com/gdunbarap
More AP Confederations Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup