Africa at the World Cup – Different Tournament, Same Expectations
Watching a diversified tournament like the World Cup is usually fun when you witness the matches as a neutral but it’s only normal to get a certain degree of pressure when your country is playing.
I was still a toddler when Roger Milla and his Cameroon team made history to be the first African nation to feature at the quarterfinals of a World Cup and this feat was repeated by the Senegal class of ’02 that had the Dioufs, Diops and probably Christian Diors. After shocking the world by winning the defending champions, France, the West Africans qualified for a group that also had Denmark and Uruguay before succeeding in their knockout fixture against Sweden. The Teranga Lions lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual third placed team, Turkey.
The 2010 World Cup was unique because it was the first tournament to be featured on African soil so the expectations were somewhat changed. The hosts duly disappointed by getting ousted and Algeria didn’t fare any better as they crashed out from a group that featured England, Slovenia and USA. Ivory Coast were rather unfortunate to be paired with Portugal and Brazil but my Nigeria failed woefully and couldn’t even muster maximum points from a group that had Argentina, Greece and Korea.
Africa supported Ghana and with the West Africans a goal away from a historic semifinal berth Asamoah Gyan chose to kill a bird in the sky rather than rattling the net from 12 yards.
Four years on, the soccer fiesta in Brazil has been an enjoyable tournament with lots of action, goals and of course surprises but as expected, some African nations have struggled to impose themselves yet again.
It started with Cameroon’s horror outing against Mexico that saw the Central Americans score two goals that were chalked off before Peralta fired home a well deserved strike. Samuel Eto’o had a particularly poor outing and bearing in mind that he’s currently unattached, that performance won’t convinced many top tier teams to acquire his services.
Ivory Coast proved that their exit in the last tournament was a glitch and despite falling behind to a Keisuke Honda goal, Arsenal bound Serge Aurier stole the show with two lovely assists for Wilfried Bony and ex-Gunner, Gervinho. With three points in the bag, Cote d’Iviore would want to continue their good run against a very strong Colombia side and that promises to be an interesting contest.
Yesterday, two more African nations locked horns with opponents from Asia and North America and as expected, they failed to impress. Nigeria may have the prestigious honor of being the defending African champions but their run of friendly fixtures didn’t inspire any confidence. Many Nigerian supporters (me included) harbored hopes that our dear Super Eagles were going to turn up against Iran, a perceived ‘weaker’ opposition but the game was shocking to say the least.
John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi lacked any creative spark and they continued to pelt balls in the air that were easily handled by the Persian rearguard. At the flanks, Victor Moses and Mallam Ahmed Musa were toothless and they failed to create a clear cut chance for Emmanuel Emenike that fed on scraps and pieces here and there. The Introduction of Shola Amoebi saw the Eagles retain the same aerial approach that clearly wasn’t working. Shortly afterwards, Peter Odemwingie was summoned and he managed to show some glimpses of his quality but it wasn’t enough as the Eagles lacked invention going forward.
Funnily enough, the best chance of the game was a header from some bloke called Reza and the Eagles dependable goalie, Vincent Enyeama, had to keep his concentration levels in check to make a superb save.
With Nigeria taking on a Bosnia side that was very impressive against Argentina one must wonder what the future holds for these lads. What’s the worst that can happen? A group stage exit – Bitch please, Nigeria has been there and certainly done that.
It’s just shocking and shameful to know that Nigeria hasn’t won a World Cup game since France 98. Since that defeat to Denmark in 98, Nigeria failed to win any game in Korea/Japan 02′ and SA 2010′ as well.
After watching the aberration against Iran, I denied myself some sleep watch the Ghana vs USA and after just 31 seconds, Clint Dempsey ran amok and smashed in the earliest goal in the tournament. At that point, I wasted no time in going to bed only to find out this morning that the Ghanaians lost to the Americans.
Today Algeria takes on Belgium and I don’t believe that the North Africans can salvage anything from the game.
I really have high hopes for Africa’s contingent in this tournament but if they get knocked out, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Different tournament, same expectations.