Despite his tender years, Jonathan Pitroipa, 22, is one of Burkina Faso’s best-known players, partly because he has spent the last four seasons in Germany. The midfielder started out with Freiburg, and is now earning rave reviews with top-flight outfit Hamburg.

Burkina Faso have also made a promising start to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying campaign, winning all four of their Group 9 games so far to go three points clear of favourites Tunisia at the top of the standings. However, Pitroipa and his men still need four points from their remaining fixtures against the Tunisians and Burundi in order to seal a berth in the next stage. With such high stakes, spoke to Pitroipa. Jonathan, Burkina Faso have yet to appear at the FIFA World Cup. What does the team need to make that decisive step?
Jonathan Pitroipa: We’ve tended to lack coolness and experience when it’s come to big games in the past, but we’ve shown steady improvement in recent matches, although we knew it was utterly essential.

The last major tournament Burkina Faso qualified for was the CAF African Cup of Nations 2004, when they were eliminated at the group stage. The side missed out on the continental finals again this year. Why?
It’s a hard one to answer as I wasn’t part of the national set-up at the time. We have a completely new generation of players now and we’re doing everything we can to repeat our successes of the past.

You have been a regular member of the Burkina Faso squad since October 2006. How would you describe playing for your country?
It’s an amazing feeling when you run out and hear the national anthem. It’s a great honour for any professional footballer to represent his country. It doesn’t get much better in football.

You switched from Freiburg to Hamburg in the summer. What did the move mean to you personally?
Coming to HSV is the next step for me personally. I really enjoyed my time in Freiburg, but now I want to establish myself in the Bundesliga and prove I belong there. We’re also in the UEFA Cup this season, which is a fantastic challenge.

What are your personal goals and what are HSV aiming to achieve this season?
I want to continue developing all the time and HSV offers the perfect environment for that. Overall, we’re hoping to improve on what was achieved last season, if at all possible. Our main priority is qualifying for Europe again.

Your South Africa 2010 qualifying programme continues on Saturday. Burkina Faso are top of Group 9 and have a real chance of progressing to the next stage. How would you describe the situation ahead of your matches against Tunisia and Burundi?
We’re in a good position but there’s no way we can afford to relax. If we can continue where we left off in recent matches, we have a decent chance against Tunisia and Burundi.

Paulo Duarte took over the reins in mid-March. Have you noticed any major changes, and what contribution has the boss made to the team’s good form?
Every coach has his own ideas and our national coach is no exception. I think you can definitely see his hand at work. He’s definitely made a big contribution to our good recent performances.

What does the first FIFA World Cup finals in Africa mean for the continent?
It’s a fantastic opportunity for the whole continent, that’s for sure. It’s a chance for Africa to reach out to the world. It’s important the organisers do everything to ensure the success of the tournament, from the stadiums through to the infrastructure.

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