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01 Jul 2014 14:39
Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has enhanced his growing international reputation. (Getty)
While the Desert Foxes and Super Eagles proved combative last-16 opponents for Germany and France, the lack of a cutting edge in attack led to defeats.
The losses against the former world champions were hardly surprising as African teams have won just 16 of 80 matches against European opponents at the global showpiece.
African football supremo Issa Hayatou echoed the pre-tournament hopes of football followers from Cairo to Cape Town when he wished for “one or even two” African semi-finalists.
But Algeria, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire won only once each, Ghana collected a solitary point and shambolic Cameroon lost all three matches for the second World Cup in succession.
Slack defending, a lack of midfield creativity and below par set piece executions were contributing factors to an underwhelming African showing.
There was some cause for celebration, though, as two African teams reached the last 16 for the first time and Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi became the first African coach to make the knockout phase.
African highlights and lowlights from World Cup 2014:
Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama enhanced his growing international reputation even though a flap at a corner gifted a goal to France midfielder Paul Pogba.
Top-ranked African side Algeria ditched the overly cautious system that led to defeat by Belgium and produced some slick counterattacking football.
Ghana showed what they were capable of in a draw against Germany, which was sandwiched between timid losses to the United States and Portugal.
African champions Nigeria shrugged off a drab draw with Iran to prove worthy opponents for former world champions Argentina and France.
Cameroon gave glimpses during the first half against hosts Brazil of what they might have achieved had they concentrated on football rather than bonuses.
Africans were generally woeful at set pieces, with corners under or overhit and free kicks not carrying the threat posed by European and South American stars.
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah must regret his pre-tournament we can be world champions quote, as it put unnecessary pressure on a mentally brittle squad.
After all the hype around outspoken Cameroon captain Samuel Eto’o, he barely threatened Mexico and missed the other two losses through injury.
Amateurish Ghana defending allowed American John Brooks to head a late winner that put the Black Stars on the back foot after just one game.
Nigeria were shocking in a goalless stalemate with Iran, barely posing a threat up front.
And the ugly
So-called Algerian supporters who shone green lasers at the Russia goalkeeper, who said he was blinded when conceding an equaliser.
Bonus-obsessed Cameroon and Ghana players who seemed more interested in dollars than qualifying for the knockout stage.
Kevin-Prince Boateng swore at his coach and Sulley Muntari struck an official, and both were booted out of the Ghana camp.
Experienced Cameroon midfielder Alex Song was red-carded for striking a Croatian on the back in full view of the referee.
Later in the same match, Cameroon’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto attempted to head-butt teammate Benjamin Moukandjo after an attack broke down. – AFP
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