Starting the 12th of June to the 13th of July global attention will shift to Brazil focusing on football’s biggest competition where the best teams in the world compete for the biggest and most coveted prize in football the FIFA World Cup. We take a look at the African teams.
Four years ago the African continent was at a certain point united in supporting one cause, the Ghanaian National team known as the ‘Black Stars’. The continent was hosting the FIFA World Cup for the first time courtesy of South Africa, but only one team made it past the group stages, Ghana, and all the continent’s hopes of lifting the trophy lay in this West African Nation. However, after an impressive display the ‘Black Stars’ were knocked out of the tournament at the quarter-final stages on post-match penalties by Uruguay, this after Luis Suarez had blocked what was a certain goal at the tail-end of normal playing. Football, as life, is at times cruel, and many felt that Africa as a continent was cheated of a berth in the semi-finals.
This years, the African teams at the World Cup are Algeria, Cameroon, Còte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria. These five nations are carrying the hopes of not only their countrymen but those of the continent. Are we going to see a record broken, perhaps an African team making it to the semi-final stages or even the final and lifting the trophy?
Algeria made an impressive run during the qualifiers for the World Cup finals and only lost once in their six matches during the group stages. ‘Les Fennecs’, as the team is christened, will be making a fourth appearance at the World Cup finals and are drawn in Group H alongside Belgium, Russia and South Korea. Having made a poor showing at the FIFA 2010 World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations last year, many do not expect a strong showing from the Algerians. This low expectation may just prove to be the right ingredient that the ‘Les Fennecs’ need to catapult them into footballing history. A key figure in this team is Madjid Bougherra, a pillar in defence whose form during the tournament might determine the course the Algerians take.
A very tough task
The ‘Group of Death’, is a term used to refer to a pool of teams drawn together who all happen to be very, very strong sides and where predicting who progresses from this group seems ever so difficult. In this year’s tournament that Group is made up of Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. The ‘Indomitable Lions’, Cameroon’s national team, were the first team from Africa to make it into the quarter finals at the FIFA 1990 World Cup finals, led by the prolific, ever dancing Roger Milla. That was their best showing at the global arena and this time round they will be making a sixth appearance at the tournament. The team boasts great individual talents such as Samuel Eto’o, Alexandre Song, Stephane Mbia, Jean Makoun and Vincent Aboubakar. Should the Cameroonians make it to the last sixteen, then chances are that they could better their performance at the 1990 finals; this however will remain a very tough task to accomplish.
Didier Drogba, Kolo and Yaya Toure, Gervinho, Didier Zokora, and Salomon Kalou are some of the best footballers in the world at the moment and most coaches if not all would love to have them in their team. That luck favours Sabri Lamouchi, CÙte d’Ivoire’s coach, since all these players are in his team; should he be able to harness their individual talents into a collective effort, then he will have pulled a master stroke. Perhaps Africa’s best hopes lie in this team that has the current African Player of the year in its ranks, Yaya Toure.
Yaya’s form over the past two seasons for his club Manchester City has been outstanding and this season he has gone one better by scoring goals, lots of them. He emerged as third top scorer this season with twenty goals and this from a midfielder. Should he be fit all through the tournament then the Ivorians will easily make it out of their group where they are up against Colombia, Greece and Japan.
Making their third consecutive appearance ‘The Black Stars’ are drawn up against Germany, Portugal and the USA, and have great individual talents in their ranks. They may not be world stars as of yet but watching the Ghanaians play, one feels a great sense of team spirit and pride amongst the team players. After a very cruel elimination in the last edition, Ghana may feel they have unfinished business to handle. Will they make it very far? Perhaps the answer lies in their performance against Germany and Portugal as their record against the USA leans in the favour of the ‘Black Stars’.
Perhaps the greatest footballing nation in Africa that has produced some of the best football players in the last two decades, also has the most dysfunctional team. The ‘Super Eagles’ always have so much promise to soar but always end fluttering at crucial moments amidst reports of poor team spirit in their camp. The current Africa Cup holders Nigeria, however, seem to have found a remedy for this in their no nonsense coach Stephen Keshi, who has managed to gel a team together that plays with a purpose. The African champions are drawn against Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iran and should easily make it into the last sixteen.
Will we see an African team lift the trophy or at the very least reach the semi-finals? Well we can only find out if we watch and follow the tournament. One thing is sure though, bets will be lost, some will cry, some will win and ultimately there will be one winner. See you in Brazil!
Solomon Ndungu Mbugua