The recent disappointing start to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) by African teams that will come to South Africa for the 2010 Fifa World Cup suggests that there is still a long way to go before the continent can conquer the world.
The five African nations that will feature in the global football showpiece have not lived up to expectations at the tournament taking place in Angola.
The Algerians have so far been a let-down at the Afcon, to say the least. They have progressed to the quarterfinals of the competition after scoring only one goal.
For a team that is going to represent the African continent at the 2010 Fifa World Cup, it is embarrassing. Les Fennecs (the Desert Foxes) will need to score more than one goal when they square up against England, the United States and Slovenia in June.
Algeria has a fairly good, strong squad, which showed their strength when they beat Egypt in a play-off to secure a place in the World Cup. The problem with the Algerians is that players such as Salim Arrache don’t want to play for their national team, but for France.
The Black Stars always have players out with injuries. And when players such as Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah and Sulley Muntari are not featured in the team, the Black Stars struggle and become ordinary. They are too dependent on these players.
It would be nice to see Ghana progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup. But with their current approach to the game they might not get beyond the group stages. The Black Stars will be up against Germany, Australia and Serbia.
Africa’s best hope. The Elephants became the first team to reach the quarterfinals of the Afcon. They look like a team that will fly Africa’s flag high during the World Cup, despite being in the “group of death”, in which they will face Brazil, Korea DPR and Portugal.
Led by their prolific striker, Didier Drogba, the Elephants, which feature stars such as Yaya Touré, Bakari Koné, Salomon Kalou, Emmanuel Eboué and Siaka Tiéné, might produce another first during the World Cup. The Elephants play some good, entertaining and attacking football. Their opponents will get a run for their money.
Rigobert Song better hang up his slippery boots before the World Cup or the Indomitable Lions will be on a flight back home as early as June 25.
A replacement at the back for the 34- year-old error-prone Song is urgently needed. Cameroon have a very strong squad that can go all the way in the World Cup. Song’s name going into the history books doesn’t boost the team.
The more the old man plays, the more he makes mistakes. The man is playing with his nephew, Alexandre Song, in the team — what does that say about him? It’s time to call it quits.
Nigeria has not fulfilled the abundant potential that sheer numbers and raw talent naturally accord it. It has produced exceptional players over the years: brawny striker Rashidi Yekini; slippery winger Emmanuel Amunike; Jay Jay Okocha, who, in terms of sheer skill, compares with anyone, anywhere in the world; defence stalwart Celestine Babayaro; the gangly Portsmouth striker Nwankwo Kanu and Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi. Yet one always feels these players could have achieved much more with and for their country.
Their teams have been perennially plagued by players with XXL-size egos, lax workmanship and little commitment.
Watching them play, you get the sense that they believe they are the Super Eagles and it’s enough for them just to turn up.
This was illustrated in the match they lost 3-1 to Egypt. Their performance lacked gumption.
Nigeria is one of the few serious football-playing countries with a population of more than 50-million that has never won the World Cup. Most countries that have won the World Cup have populations of more than 50-million; Nigeria has just short of 150-million.
Yet, if Nigeria has disappointed, salvation is coming from elsewhere, as the recent upsets at the Africa Cup of Nations have shown.
The balance of power in football has shifted southwards — literally and metaphorically — as shown in the recent successes of Togo, Angola (both first-time qualifiers at the 2006 World Cup) and Senegal (quarterfinalists in 2002).