As Africa hosts the FIFA World Cup Soccer tournament for the very first time, fans across the continent are wondering whether South Africa, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Cameroon and Algeria (the six teams representing the mother continent in the tournament) will enable her to capture and retain the World Cup trophy on the continent. BETHSHEBA ACHITSA reports.
That Africa has talent in football is indisputable. However, it should be borne in mind that since the first FIFA World Cup tournament in 1930, the highest level that any African team has ever reached is the quarter final. It is likely that despite the “home advantage”, Africa is unlikely to triumph at the 2010 FIFA World Cup to be held in South Africa. Africa’s football is not only bedeviled with managerial problems and lack of proper facilities but the inadequate preparation for her players is also a likely factor to deny her the much coveted world soccer trophy.
A closer look at the performance of the six teams representing Africa shows why Africa may not get past the semi final stage. Lack of consistent appearances at the world cup tournament is among the main reasons why some of the teams cannot be counted on as strong contenders at the 2010 world cup. Algeria, for instance, is a team that has constantly been absent from the World Cup in the last two decades.
First appearing in the global showcase in 1982, Algeria shocked football fans everywhere by completing a fully-deserved 2-1 victory over eventual finalists, the then revered West Germany. The team could not, however, maintain this feat making many to believe it was a fluke rather than an indication that Algeria was a world class soccer nation. Indeed when they made their second appearance at the event in 1986 they lost to Spain and for 23 years the team has never set foot on the world cup tournament pitch. Though it has qualified to represent Africa at the 2010 event amid cases of hooliganism and unethical sportsmanship, Algeria appears to be Africa’s least favourite team to win the trophy.
Ghana is yet another team that has consistently missed out in the World Cup after their reigning glory suddenly dimmed out and they made their comeback in 2006 where they did not perform quiet well.
The team that many Africans are counting on to lead them to the much longed for glory is Cote d’Ivoire, a team that is making its second appearance at the tournament after 2006. Though with a galaxy of high profile players, this team has been performing dismally leaving even its own countrymen wondering what has gone wrong. In the years after its first “breakthrough” in the World Cup, Ivory Coast could not stand up even against football minnows like Madagascar, Botswana and Mozambique. Having been outperformed by many other teams in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, it would be a far fetched dream to think that Cote d’Ivoire could stand against teams such as Brazil or Germany.
Algeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast also lack the confidence to stand up against other teams that have always appeared at the tournament.
Nigeria could be viewed as one of Africa’s strongest teams. The country, which has 11 of its citizens playing in the English Premier League, could have been the team to beat but, faced with poor administration, it is not possible for it to rise up to the occasion and perform to expectation. The team has therefore been on the downward trend; it failed to make it to the tournament in 2006 after three years of consistent appearances.
Cameroon would have been the ultimate team that would have enabled Africa to win the World Cup on the home soil. With five consistent appearances at the tournament unlike the other five teams, Cameroon would have done much better than just getting to the quarter finals. That it has faced so many difficulties in its quest to qualify for the 2010 tournament shows how much ill-prepared the team is.
South Africa, on the other hand, has a less impressive record for one to think that it could perform better than just getting to the second round in the group stages.
Africa lacks a side with 11 players who have the world class quality to win a World Cup and with managerial problems threatening most football clubs in Africa, it is not possible for the six African teams to get past the European problems where money is seldom an issue for players and the teams are pioneering techniques in fields like nutrition and training methods.
Whether Africa fails to achieve much at the tournament, there are reasons why most African countries should be smiling with the continent hosting the World Cup. Expected to draw an estimated three million international visitors to South Africa, the tourism sector is going to cash in on this tournament. South Africa is thus going to reap more benefits from the World Cup that is creating 159,000 new jobs for her. Improving her infrastructure and economy and help sanitise her image that is tarnished by run-away violent crime, rape, xenophobia and corruption.