Jose Mourinho has tipped African giants Nigeria and Ivory Coast to make it out of their respective groups at the FIFA World Cup.
The Chelsea coach was fielding questions as one of Yahoo’s global football ambassadors when he was asked who he thinks will progress from the group stage at the upcoming tournament in Brazil.
Mourinho revealed that his backing for the African pair is in part down to close personal ties, with former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba representing the Ivory Coast, while Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel is part of Nigeria’s 23-man party.
“I’m very emotional, I go always with my friends,” Mourinho said in reference to his backing of the Ivory Coast, who will battle Greece, Japan and Colombia in Group C.
Nigeria face a difficult task, with Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iran also in pool F.
Mourinho tipped Argentina to top the pile, but feels Nigeria are capable of joining them in the knockout stages, adding: “Argentina has to be the group winner and what makes me decide for Nigeria is the fact that I have there one player there.”
Former Nigeria coach Christian Chukwu is not as assured as Mourinho, however, and stated that the Africa Cup of Nations holders will have to vastly improve on Saturday’s 2-1 friendly defeat to the United States.
“There are times you play well and still lose the game and there are times you play badly and win,” Chukwu is quoted as saying by Nigerian newspaper The Sun.
“My worry is over the way the boys played. From the defence to the attack were suspect and showed no cohesion, (apart from) when the duo of Victor Moses and Michael Uchebo came on as substitutes and added bite to the attack.”
Despite his fears, Chukwu has backed current coach Stephen Keshi and his squad to improve in Monday’s Group F opener with Iran.
“The players are professionals who know what their jobs are,” he continued. “I want to believe that the team can still be turned around before Nigeria’s first game against Iran.”