New Delhi: Former French star Bixente Lizarazu, who was a part of the triumphant 1998 World Cup squad, says a combination of right philosophy, talent and passion can help India improve its football profile.
India are currently ranked 102 in the FIFA rankings, following an unbeaten run of 13 matches, which saw them qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE. "I can imagine football to be the best and most popular sport in India, with such immense talent and passion for the game.
"Indians can improve the current scenario with ISL and I-League and also building the national team. That way, I am sure they will have a great national team soon and qualify for the World Cup," Lizarazu told PTI.
During a career that spanned 12 years from 1992 to 2004, the former Bayern Munich star played in three European Championships and two World Cups for France, winning the 1998 mega event at home and Euro 2000. On the growth of the sport in India, the former French side left-back said, "Football is growing in India and gaining momentum, and with the right philosophy India can become a force in international football."
The 48-year-old was here as part of FC Bayern Munich Youth Cup, an adidas initiative to promote football in India in association with the top German club. "It's a very good opportunity for young talent to showcase their skills and also win an opportunity to play the World Finals at the Allianz Arena in Munich and get trained by the best," he said.
"It enables us to scout top players from select countries and give them a platform that acknowledges their talent as well as enable them to participate in an international championship." FC Bayern Munich have been organising the Youth Cup in many countries like India, China, Thailand and Singapore, among others.
Himself a World Cup winner, Lizarazu picked Germany, Brazil, France and Spain as favourites to win the trophy in Russia this summer. "France has the potential to win the FIFA World Cup 2018, and if not then reach the top 4 for sure."
He feels the competition at Bundesliga was more intense during his playing days.
"During my time, they were stronger sides and were more performing. I remember we lost the title to Bremen, they won Bundesliga and we finished second. Right now, FC Bayern is a very strong club and it is very difficult to compete with or beat them."
Asked about Bayern's chances in this season's Champions League, he replied in the positive. "FC Bayern has the full potential and chance to win the Champions League this season, like every season. However, there are other top teams as full competition -- Barcelona, PSG, Real Madrid, and Manchester City." According to Lizarazu, Bundesliga is the world's most preferred league.