Martin Jol hopes the carrot of a potential World Cup spot will spur his players on to deliver on the pitch for Fulham this season.
The Netherlands, Costa Rica, Switzerland, England, Iran and Colombia have all already qualified for next year’s showpiece event, while Ghana, Greece and Sweden will navigate the Play-Offs. Fulham have representatives in or around each of those respective national squads, and the Whites boss hopes it serves as an added incentive in the build-up to the tournament.
“That’s a big inspiration and I always try to use it,” Jol admitted. “Not overuse it because it could be a big problem as everyone wants to go to the World Cup. For example, Brede Hangeland’s got no problem with Norway [who failed to qualify], Philippe Senderos wants to have his games, he wants to play, and if they don’t play they’ve got a problem because all national team managers want their players to play. For example, with Louis van Gaal [Netherlands manager], if you don’t play he won’t select you. So of course I use it as a motivation.
“I’ve got youngsters like Alexander Kačaniklić – he’s in the Sweden national team and did well. Pajtim Kasami has made his debut [for Switzerland] now so, of course, they want to go to Brazil, but first they have to perform and do well [for Fulham].”
Bryan Ruiz’s Costa Rica secured their spot in Brazil with games to spare, and Jol insisted his playmaker can be very proud when he leads his nation at the competition next year.
“We went to Costa Rica and I saw how respected he was,” he said. “He’s the captain of his country and, of course, Latin America is a bit small – smaller than South America – but if you look at their national team, if you look at the clubs, they are playing at a high level. To be captain of a country that goes to the World Cup is something to be proud of.”
In his pre-match press conference ahead of the Crystal Palace fixture, Jol was questioned as to the progress currently being made by Mahamadou Diarra. The midfielder’s contract expired in the summer, but he has been training with the Club in the hope of securing a fresh deal.
“Diarra knows that, if he’s fit, he’s a very good player still,” Jol said. “But if he’s not fit I can’t use him and you can’t blame us for not paying people if they don’t play.
“He was injured and went to Madrid and he had a little setback so we put him on a four-week rehab schedule again to get his fitness back. He had a setback, first with his ankle – someone kicked his ankle when he played with the Reserves.
“We told him that he had to play three games to be 100 per cent fit and then we would give him a contract. But he had that setback with his ankle and now with his knee, so the surgeon in Madrid thought it was a good idea to put him on the four-week rehab schedule.
“We’re trying to get him 100 per cent fit again in four weeks and then we will make an assessment and make a judgement.”