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Roger Milla: History against African teams but expect upsets at the 2010 World Cup

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Roger Milla burst onto the big stage at the grand old age of 38 when he scored four never-to-be-forgotten goals for Cameroon at the 1990 FIFA World Cup Finals in Italy. Capturing headlines all over the globe for his impressive displays en route to a memorable quarter-final defeat to Sir Bobby Robson’s England, Milla captured the hearts of the public with his spontaneous corner flag dancing routine in celebration of each of his goals.

Now 57, the former Cameroon striker is an ambassador for African football and is fronting Coca-Cola’s campaign to encourage players and fans to share their goal celebrations with the rest of the world.

Soccerlens’ Adrian Clarke spoke to the African legend face to face at FIFA HQ in Zurich…

Roger, who are your favourites to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup?

On current form I can’t see past Brazil as the hot favourites to win this competition. They are a great side with many fantastic individual players. However, between now and next summer a lot can change so that doesn’t necessarily mean I think they will triumph. I believe this World Cup will be one of many, many surprises. On African soil anything could happen and home continent teams like Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana could do very well indeed. I predict that a few big nations will be in for a big surprise.

So, do you believe an African team can actually win the tournament?!

I really hope they will come out on top but history is against them. In the past we’ve seen two nations reach the last eight but in 2010 I envisage an African country making it at least as far as the semi-finals. If that was achieved it would be a great leap forward for African football and the entire continent. And, if one of the African nations are lucky enough to reach the World Cup final itself let’s just say that I believe it will be very difficult for any opposition country to beat them!

Doesn’t the fact that this will be a ‘winter’ World Cup count against the home continent nations?

No, I don’t think the climate will be a factor. The winter will be a mild one in South Africa at that time of the year with temperatures remaining well above zero degrees. The European nations might like it I guess but it won’t be as cold as in their own countries during winter time, so it’s not a big advantage.

You are world famous for your 1990 FIFA World Cup celebrations by the corner flag – so what did you make of Peter Crouch’s ‘robot’ dance?

Crouch’s robot dance made me laugh so much it hurt (laughing). It was very funny! It was great because you don’t expect a robot dance to be linked with soccer but it was still nice and original anyway. My personal taste is a little different, so if Peter Crouch can do it I’d love to see him celebrate a goal with a more traditional type of dance! The TV and the crowds would love to see it.

Talking of England, what do you think of their chances in South Africa?

The England team is raising its head above water again that’s for sure after some very difficult times in recent seasons. Fabio Capello is doing a fabulous job in charge of the side and has made them into one of the strongest teams around. The improvement is amazing and that’s down to collective spirit and team work as much as it is down to ability. Let me tell you, when an England team has a strong team spirit it makes them very, very dangerous to all kinds of opposition. They will be hard to beat.

You made a name for yourself on the world stage at the age of 38. England’s veteran player nowadays is David Beckham of course and he will be 35 next summer. Can he play one or perhaps two more World Cups?!

David Beckham is still in great physical shape so he deserves a lot of credit for that. He is still a big player and will be an influence on the next World Cup I am sure. Can he still play in 2014? I am not sure. He has an extraordinary technique so that side of his game is not in question, it will all boil down to how fit he can keep himself. I did it at 38, so if he looks after himself there is no reason why he can’t. As a player he’s good enough. It depends how his body is feeling at the time.

Roger Milla spoke exclusively to Soccerlens at FIFA headquarters in Zurich where the Coca-Cola Company launched their Global Marketing Campaign to support their sponsorship of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

World football’s greatest football trophy is set to embark on its longest ever global tour, with FIFA and the Coca-Cola Company taking the real solid-gold trophy to 86 countries on a 225-day journey that will allow thousands of fans to enjoy a rare close-up view of the authentic World Cup Trophy. The trophy will travel 134,017 kilometres and visit every nation in Africa and many others around the world, including the UK.

The ceremonial start of the tour was held this week at the FIFA headquarters with President Sep Blatter and Coca-Cola chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent accompanying the trophy on the first steps of its journey. Later in the week, the FIFA World Cup Trophy will be flown from Zurich to its first stop in Cairo, Egypt.

“Through this event, we are really engaging football fans on a global scale, giving them the unique opportunity to have their picture taken with the most prestigious prize in world football and to embrace the excitement surrounding the FIFA World Cup,” said Sep Blatter.

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