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Mixed success for African teams

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Piers Edwards | 09:37 UK time, Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Six games played by Africa at the continent's first World Cup, but just the one win.

Not the start Africa was hoping for, especially given the perceived advantages of playing at home. But putting things into context, only Tunisia avoided defeat in the opening round of matches in Germany - whereas three of the record six finalists did here.

Ghana are the sole victors and history is on their side. Ever since Morocco became the first Africans into the knock-out stages in 1986, the continent's first team to win at the World Cup has always gone the furthest.

For my money, beating the Serbs was the big one for the Black Stars and coach Milovan Rajevac's fine tactical brain assessed his homeland's strengths and weaknesses only too well.

It was the Nations Cup all over again as the Black Stars (with Inkoom, Appiah and Muntari on a strong bench), eked out a 1-0 win , to follow on from three slender wins of the same scoreline, which took them to this year's Nations Cup final.

It was in Angola where John Mensah's enforced absence effectively shoe-horned former midfielder Isaac Vorsah into central defence. And he has shone there, a blessing in disguise.

drogba595.jpgDrogba's return to a more organised Ivory Coast team could be the spark

Ghana could have been joined by Ivory Coast in the winner's enclosure, with Gervinho and Drogba wasting fine openings against Portugal.

But what leapt out was the way Sven-Goran Eriksson has changed a team that was little short of shambolic in its last competitive fixture (the Nations Cup loss to Algeria) into one that was well-organised and tactically-disciplined.

Struggling centre-back Sol Bamba has been replaced by Sevilla midfielder Didier Zokora in an inspired switch because Zakora held firm, alongside Kolo Toure and against Cristiano Ronaldo and company.

Meanwhile, it was noticeable how the front pair of Aruna Dindane and Salomon Kalou dropped to the flanks whenever Portugal had possession, so making the 4-3-1-2 (or 4-3-3) more solid - and allowing playmaker Gervinho to have one of his most influential games.

North Korea's impressive showing has just made Group G ever more engrossing, and Sunday evening's Soccer City clash between the West Africans and Brazil should be a feast.

South Africa were the other team to avoid defeat as an initially-nervy Bafana Bafana weathered the Mexican waves of attacks, thanks to fortune and committed defending, but got going once regular left-back Tsepo Masilela replaced Lucas Thwala.

The switch meant South Africa were no longer on the back foot but able to come forward, so changing the nature of their play and expect the marauding Masilela, an injury concern last week, to start against Uruguay.

With all but one of the starting XI making their World Cup bow on Friday, Carlos Alberto Parreira's side should be better against Uruguay in a match which the Brazilian, loath to face France needing a result, says he's going all out to win.

One concern though is the form of Steven Pienaar, who's finding his feet in his new second striker role as well as struggling with fatigue. Quiet against Mexico, the Everton star needs to come good to unlock what will be a stubborn Uruguayan defence.

As for the losing sides, Nigeria's Super Eagles seem to have the greatest chance of progress, especially if Vincent Enyeama continues to play like he did against Argentina! The Israel-based goalkeeper, who almost died in a car crash six years ago, single-handedly ensured Nigerian morale didn't take a battering.

Although they can massively improve up front, the Super Eagles' eleven shots producing just one on target, central midfielder Haruna Lukman impressed as he smoothly orchestrated play, rarely displaying the hot-headed temperament many Nigerians fear and seemingly bringing more dynamism to the central midfield role than the injured John Mikel Obi.

"We didn't go out there to just play, we actually had a game plan" said Dickson Etuhu, which makes you wonder about previous coaching regimes and reminds you that Nigeria are bizarrely based at sea level despite playing all their games at altitude.

Now while Paul Le Guen was rightly hailed as a saviour when leading Cameroon to the finals from a perilous situation, his line-up in the defeat to Japan raised questions about his knowledge of the best way forward. In a side fielding eight changes to the one that exited the Nations Cup, the Frenchman experimented with Eto'o on the right wing.

etoo595.jpgIt falls to Cameroon manager Le Guen to help Eto'o stand out from his team-mates

That was Eto'o's third different position this year for Cameroon and unless the penalty box panther starts spearheading the attack, opponents don't need to worry about neutralising the three-time African Footballer of the Year as Le Guen can do it himself. Dropping Song was also a massive bolt from the blue.

Finally, it's impossible to see how Algeria coach Rabah Saadane can keep faith with keeper Faouzi Chaouchi whose credit following his sensational play-off display against Egypt must be expiring.

He's dropped several clangers since, while showing gross indiscipline (trying to head-butt the ref) in the Nations Cup semi-final and it seems Bulgaria-based Rais Mboli, who only made his Algeria debut last month and who recently trained with Man Utd, is set to replace him.

The North Africans' problems aren't at the back though, for they now boast just one goal from six games and have suffered four sendings-off in their last two meaningful games.

These troubled and toothless Desert Foxes aside, Africa's other finalists are still in the hunt.


  • Comment number 1.

    It was always pretty clear that Algeria were the weakest link in England's group. No attack. Shaky defence. Poor keeper. They might as well go home now.

    Cameroon aren't looking in much better shape. Book that flight back, lads!

    For my money, Ghana looked unimpressive. True, they beat a dismal Serbian team. But I wouldnt set too much by that. Even if they progress, they will fall in the next round.

    Surprised by SA, though. They looked better and fought harder than most of us had probably expected. I hope they manage to get through to the knock out stages.

    I suspect one African team will make the last 8. But no further than that.

    As a continent, in football terms, it hasn't really progressed since the 1990's.

  • Comment number 2.

    Algeria and Cameroon proved once again they were a waste of a berth at the WC. The latter lacking the motivation and determination, the prior lacking just plain ability to compete
    Really disappointing from both teams. It seems the WC will end next week for both these nations

    I dont think Cameroon can turn it around unless they have a 180 degree change in attitude
    RSA are still in it. They at least a result aganist Uruguay today. All of Africa is behind you Bafana Bafana !!!

    Couldnt be prouder of our Ghanian boys. A real positive result that was fully deserved. I hope they find a way to side step a potential last 16 clash aganist England.

    Nigeria are still in it but will need a win aganist a poor looking Greek team and hope Argentina can turn on the flair aganist South Korea

    Finally to Cote D'Ivore. Massive game yesterday aganist portugal. A tad bit disappointed Drogba and Co didnt take the three points but the organization with and without the ball yesterday was phenomenal for African standards

    Allez Africa !!!

  • Comment number 3.

    It will be a real disappointment if no African team progresses beyond the group stage, again. After the promise they showed four and eight years ago, questions would need to be asked about their lack of progress if none can advance this time around.

    On a side note, I attend an international school for adults, and a lot of my African friends here feel patronised at how the world's media is portraying this as "Africa's World Cup". Only South Africans have access to the generous host nation ticket allocations, and only they have the possibility of purchasing tickets at a heavy discount. No money is being invested in any other African country's infrastructure or footballing facilities, either. The geographic distance between the more northern African teams and South Africa is far greater than the distance between Germany and the other European teams at the last World Cup, and the climate is completely different too, as South Africa is experiencing its winter. The western media is making a commendable effort to showcase all of Africa's footballing talent, but for many it feels unnecessarily condescending ("Wow, aren't Ghana doing well to have won their first game 1-0? The whole continent is cheering them on!" sort of thing). It's a fine line.

  • Comment number 4.

    Nothing changes with African football. Good individuals, weak teams. Cameroon on paper should have beaten Japan for example. I will be very very surprised if any African team makes it past the last 16.

  • Comment number 5.

    Only one win ? And you're surprised by that?

    Cameroon should probably have beaten Japan based on quality of the two squads. Ivory Coast had a chance against Portugal but thats very even. The other four were all second favourites in their matches and rightly so. In fact Ghana's win was definately an upset as was South Africa gettign a point.

    At this stage I would say that makes the 6 as a whole slightly overachieving expectations.

  • Comment number 6.

    Ghana's win was huge but the big surprise was Cameroon. Should have beaten Japan and I had fancied them to come through the group.

    Ivory Coast would have overcome Portugal if Drogba was fully fit and I still think they'll make the last 16.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ghana's win was not an upset in the slightest. Most people were expecting (and still are) Ghana to qualify from group D.

  • Comment number 8.

    There's only been 3 European victories so far - one coming from an all European Encounter (Holl v Den) another Germany against 10-man Oz and the last Slovenia beating Algeria!

    I'm a little disappointed with the African showing but not totally suprised, more struck by just how similar every continents' style of play seems to have merged into the same mediocre blandness. The African game used to be very open, exciting and unpredictable with the odd farcical defending thrown in but now it's the same as everyone else's. Ivory Coast even producing the same results as England under Sven - one half good...the other half not so good!

  • Comment number 9.

    Without a doubt a rather disappointing opening round by African teams. Ghana was lucky, if it hadn't been for that silly handball, that game would have ended in a draw. Surprisingly, for my money, it was SA that showed how to construct an attack, followed closely by the Nigerians.

    African teams are too slow in constructing an attack, it's almost as if they run out of ideas on what to do. That's the biggest concern for me and any observer. Ivory coast should have beaten a petulant Ronaldo and Portugal, but Drogba inexplicably opted to pass into empty space than tap the ball into the net. Africa is being too cautious, they need to take a few calculated risks and have a go at their opposition.

    Having said that, the risks Cameroon took (playing Eto'o wide???) clearly didn't pay off. Cameroon were so far off their game it was ridiculous. I hope Le Guen stops the experimenting (at the world cup? really?) and puts out a side that can play. Song has to play and Eto'o should be in the middle where he's always been the most effective.

    The second round starts tonight, Africa make us PROUD!

  • Comment number 10.

    While Algeria may be poor and lacking in attack, I think it's unfair to say they shaky in defence! Their defence (minus Chaouchi, who has clearly been teaching Robert Green all he knows) is pretty good.

  • Comment number 11.

    South Africa have impressed me since the Confederations Cup - Brazil needed a stoppage time free kick to beat them and they came from behind twice to draw level with Spain. They punched well above their weight bouyed by the home support, and hopefully they can do the same thing. I can see them beating Uruguay and perhaps even topping the group if they can nick a result against a poor France side.

    Ivory Coast looked comfrtable against Portugal, and with a bit of good finishing and adventure they could have beaten the world's third best team. If they get any sort of result against Brazil they will have a great chance of progressing.

    Algeria looked dire - and I hope it stays that way as we may need to stick a fair few past them to finish ahead of the USA on GD.

    Cameroon looked like they were lacking - and a shame a world class player is misused.

    Nigeria looked good - not much up front but a fantastic keeper gives them a fighting chance.

    Ghana didn't create much but results are more important than performances and they now have a good chance of progressing.

  • Comment number 12.

    After the the first games African teams look impressive, except the likes of Cameroon and Algeria. I think Nigeria just need a bit of organization in the deference line and midfield.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think these european coaches are killing African football with their tactics. We are not europeans and should stop playing like them. We have african way of playing the beautiful game and not defending for 85 mins and try to score an odd goal. Afterall, No european team has ever won the world cup outside Europe.

  • Comment number 14.

    For all the teams in the competition form seems a hard thing to come by, every first game of 1st round has been like an opening game of a competition- stiff and cagey. Having followed African closely for a long time, i would say the biggest problem among the African teams is attitude. No real ambition to take the game by the scruff of the neck. With three points on offer Cameroon fielded an experimental side that lacked coordination, Algeria looked as if they couldn't be bothered because they couldn't counter. Similarly lack lustre performances from the group of individuals known as Ivory Cost and consistently wooded Nigeria. Thankfully, the hosts and Ghana though struggling have responded to what the tournament was billed to be.

    Sadly I can't help but feel that qualifying and the African Cup was the competition for most the teams and the actual World Cup is just a bonus. Having said that, I do expect Algeria to rise to the England occasion if they get half a chance. Ivory Coast will attempt to muster something in the battle for second place with equally dismal Portugal. Nigeria will struggle, and hopefully Cameroon can find decent a line up in time. Keep check of your attitude Africa before it's too late.

  • Comment number 15.

    The result of Cameroon should not be described as too surprising. Disappointing, yes, but Japan are an organised, decent team who can hold out well against disoriented opposition - which is exactly what this Cameroon side is. Cameroon have a low, low chance of progressing - basically, if Japan get a result against Denmark, which they might, it's all over.

    Nigeria are well out of it as well, it is hard to see them getting better results than South Korea. Koreans may well top the group, seeing as Veron won't play against them.

    Ghana must feel they really have a chance now, while Ivory Coast have a lot of work to do but are still well in it. SA face two very tricky fixtures - a draw with Uruguay, a loss to France and it's all over for them. They really need to win tonight.

    I'd say, it's the same old, same old with African teams: all hyped up in the beginning, talk about them reaching semis, then half of them self-destruct in the group stages and at best one makes it to the quarters. But hey, we need more African teams there - if only to increase the statistical probability of them getting any further in the tourney.

  • Comment number 16.

    #13 arien10 wrote: We are not europeans and should stop playing like them - completely agree! I'm all for different playing styles..that's why W.C's becoming so boring. Everything shouldn't just be about simply winning - where's the fun in life if only one team can do that anyway? - a lot will be left disappointed.

  • Comment number 17.

    All the African stil have a fighting chance except Algeria which were poor.
    The host with the crowd and commitment they shown so far will qualify out of the group.Cameroon were poor, they are capable of beaten Japan without Eto'o so the excuse of their star striker playing out of position should be told to the marines.

    Ghana and Ivory coast has been most impresive so far but the Ghanaian victory is not convincing enough to prove they have arrived, while CIV had their head held high against a formidable opponent like Portugal.
    Nigeria had their 'keeper to thank from a whitewash from the Messi led Argentina attack but they show some flashes too if not for poor marksmanship and high respect given to their opponent they could have nick a draw.

  • Comment number 18.

    I totally agree with JoC. In this era of globalisation with free and abundant movement of players and coaches, it's inevitable that the unique features of a particular continent or country's style of play will slowly cease to exist. This has resulted in virtually the same style played through out the footballing world and what was once a great tournament has, for the most part, descended into a bland, undistinguished and monotonous spectacle.

  • Comment number 19.

    I think that people are being a little overly critical. Although there has only been one victory so far for an African nation they have only played a single game each so far. More importantly many of the African teams have been placed in very tough groups or had a very tough first game. I think for Nigeria to lose only 1-0 to Argentina is very respectable, Serbia are a decent team and Ghana beat them, for Ivory Coast to get a draw with the 3rd ranked country in the world is more than respectable, 'Bafana Bafana' also did ok I thought. African nations may have made a slow start in terms of their lack of victories but if you look at the games they've had I think they've started as well as anybody could have expected. The only two disappointments for me really have been Cameroon and Algeria they were both very poor. I definately think African football is on the rise when you consider how little investment they have to put into football in comparison to their European counterparts they deserve a bit more credit.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think overall it has been a fairly disappointing start for African teams, but there can still be as many as 4 qualifiers for the second round.
    Ghana's victory against Serbia has fatuously been described by some as a "shock"...even though Ghana were generally expected to qualify with Germany from this group. I was happy to see most of the British press state the obvious..Ghana was the dominant side. Sure there's more work to be done but a deserved victory against a strong European side should not be under-estimated. The penalty was clear-cut. Somehow the German thrashing of a truly dismal side (Australia) has had them prematurely elevated into the stratosphere. Perhaps their match against Serbia will truly put this group into its proper context. Ghana to qualify.
    I believe the Super Eagles also have a fighting chance and I salute their fabulous goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama. True he saved them from a whitewash but if the chances at the other end had been taken there might have been a positive outcome. If they can overcome the well-organised South Koreans they will qualify. The Greeks haven't turned up yet.
    Ivory Coast face a tough fight but they can also go through. I expect this group to be very closely fought and as we saw yesterday the North Koreans are not going to be anybody's whipping boys. They may well get some points. The Elephants will make it.
    Cameroun have made it very difficult for themselves and need to take at least 4 points from Holland and Denmark. Based on their performance against Japan the task seems beyond them.
    Algeria look really weak. It's difficult to see them getting any points from England or the U.S.
    That leaves the Bafana Bafana. A good result against Mexico because they were in the main outplayed. Their matches against Uruguay and France look very tough but they have a fighting chance and might qualify.

  • Comment number 21.

    Am i the only one Missing the EGYPTIANS?
    No disrespect to Algeria, and no team (probably except SA) won a free ticket to the world cup, but the egyptians really taught the rest of
    Africa a lesson during the CON, i mean they do pass the ball like the spaniards, and know how to get the ball forward very quickly and play at an astonishing pace. How i wish they were here!
    I thought the Argentines looked desperately poor against a raather careful Nigerian side. and when the super eagles started pushing forward, they actually opened up what used to be a very solid defence. a performance like that against S Korea and a win for either nigeria or greece will leave them really t risk of dropping out of that group.
    After all the bad press ericsson got from his stay with The 3 lions, i was convinced he was a terrible coach, and was feeling really bad for ivory coast when they settled for him when they couldn't get the great guus, but for the first time, since i've been watching them, the ivoriens were showing their ability. that guy does know how to coach.
    i have this nagging feeling the south Africans will lose today, not something i should say on an African blog, but those uruguayans have a way of spoiling the party for people. do wish them the very best, will love to hear that vuvuzela at its best in the last 16.

  • Comment number 22.

    BAFANA BAFANA!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Come on SA, beat Uruguay tonight and you're practically through.

    Ghana will be a tough test for ANY team this year and if Sven allows the Ivorians a little freedom, they could go quite far too, sadly though Algeria, Cameroon and to a lesser extent Nigeria look about as weak as Scotland ;)

  • Comment number 24.

    Bafana Bafana, The Elephants and the Black Stars have things going their way so far. They seem to be well placed for onward movement. The Indomitable Lions, the Desert Foxes and the Super Eagles cannot be taken too lightly. All these African teams enjoy massive support in their home continent. With one game gone and two still to come everything is possible. Best of luck to Bafana Bafana and to all the World Cup teams.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 25.

    Shame about Nigeria and Cameroon, the talent and physic is there, but once again nothing can overcome our lack of preparation, imagine this squad was only put together less than 3 months ago, and the team was said to arrive at altitude 1 day before their first match.
    Also Nigerian players need to be more of team players, i.e. pass to a better placed player!!......they rather want the glory for themselves always!.

    As for Cameroon only heaven knows why one of the best strikers in the world Eto'o was played wide right on the day, strange decision by their coach!

    Pele's dream still has to wait!

  • Comment number 26.

    Oh dear. Uruguay v South Africa. Men against boys.

    We can add them to Cameroon and Algeria as being o u t.

  • Comment number 27.

    Well, it seems that lack of quality and finish (both go hand in in hand by the way) has all but put an end today to the South African dream. But it was just a dream, a hope that objectively had little chance to materialize. Looking at the country last entries in international competition (the past 3 ACofN, of which they missed out the last in Angola ) one had little to be excited about.

    Bidding for the right to host a global competition is an achievement by itself. However building up a sound football development program from grass root to senior league level is an every day thing. One can't help but question how those efforts have been carried out since the very day they entered the competition to host WC 2010 quite a few years back!

  • Comment number 28.

    As a self-confessed euro-centric fan I hope I won't offend with this...
    To me expectations of African success seem fueled almost entirely by European (and specifically British) journalists - on the back of Pele's now infamous prediction. I don't see many African sports journalists talking up the chances of African success.
    Sadly, in the current WC I can see a lot more promise and progress by Asian nations than by African ones. I don't like making predictions (when I do only the bookies benefit) but I suspect that not one African nation will progress beyond the opening round. This despite the growing number of African participants at each succesive WC. Believe me, this is NOT a cause for celebration, even for a eurocentric.
    Given the power structures and influence clearly extant within FIFA and subordinate bodies, it is too much to hope for a reasoned and honest debate there - but perhaps on here.....
    Is it not time we got away from the idea of 'quotas' of teams from the various continents? Unlike in 1930 it no longer takes 2 or 3 weeks to travel to South America / Afrika / Asia / Europe / Australia / N America. Is it not timne that qualification for the WC Finals was based on merit rather than location? If teams continue to qualify as the 'best of the worst' how will they improve? As things stand - in my view - we will continue to see winners of the WC from South America and Europe only. How can it be otherwise?
    Sorry to have droned on for so long!

  • Comment number 29.

    I am not so steeped in doom and gloom, but I agree some "ifs" have to happen for the African teams to advance. Cote D'Ivoire will win that group if Drogba comes back - otherwise they will come second. Guaranteed. If Nigeria can beat South Korea, they will come second as well. Ghana has to hold their nerve against Germany and get a point. If they do, they will come second as well. South Africa might be out based on the results today against Uruguay. I fancy Algeria to go home as well. Cameroon can navigate if they play the following formation below.


    Geremi Nkoulou Bassong Bong

    A. Song

    Mbia Assou-Ekotto

    Emana Eto Webo

    (that is a strong, big, physical team with some width in the flanks. But the inept coach will not do it so I fance Cameroon to go home as well after round 1).

  • Comment number 30.

    Sorry...for Cameroon meant the following formation


    Geremi, Nkoulou, Bassong, Bong

    A. Song

    Mbia, Emana, Assou-Ekotto

    Eto, Webo or Choupo-Moting

  • Comment number 31.

    Too bad, i think fifa really wanted SA to go really far, now the fear of empty stadia is a real possibility. they really should have given the world cup to a country that does have a team to field, and not just the infrastructure to host it. funny, but i am still talking about Egypt, but i guess in the build up, everyone wanted a black african world cup, so SA got it. really did want them to go far, but trust Diego Forlan, the Dream spoiler (remember fulham and Roy hodgson anyone?)

  • Comment number 32.

    Algeria and cameroon were woeful in their first games it was like watching a bunch pigs playing football, they lack fighting spirit and energy that african team usually have.

    To be honest i would say algeria are very lucky to be in the world cup apart from their wins against egypt and the ivory coast they are been woeful for the rest of the games.

    A 3-0 nil thrashing against ireland, then against slovenia and a 4-0 nil thrashing against egypt in the african cup of nations they have been medicore.

    As for cameroon they have been out of form since the african cup of nations they were very lucky to get the quarters in the african cup of nations , and had quiet a medicore group.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

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  • Comment number 36.

    Very interesting post about African soccer, I usually check this site out for interesting news and to be updated with the latest info about their great players.

  • Comment number 37.

    I agree with feddawlanen statement:

    "Ghana will be a tough test for ANY team this year and if Sven allows the Ivorians a little freedom, they could go quite far too, sadly though Algeria, Cameroon and to a lesser extent Nigeria look about as weak as Scotland ;)"

    I wonder if Ghana can be a perfect match with Brazil.
    Keep it up team GHANA "YOU ROCK"

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