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Analysing Africa's World Cup contenders

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Piers Edwards | 13:51 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Egypt coach Hassan Shehata may find he's exceptionally popular over the next few months - not so much because he'll be permanently swimming in a sea of congratulations, more because the world's leading coaches may want to pick his brain.

For the wily 60-year-old beat no less than four - Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria and Ghana - of Africa's six World Cup finalists en route to winning January's Nations Cup in Angola. And Nigeria, who have since sacked coach Shaibu Amodu, are pursuing the 'if you can't beat them, join them' route, with Shehata now wanted for one of football's hottest jobs. Though it does appear that approach has been blocked by the Egypt Football Association.

Given Amodu's dismissal and Nigeria's unconvincing displays, we probably learnt less about the Super Eagles than any of the five World Cup finalists. Well-beaten by Egypt, lucky against Benin, promising against Mozambique yet poor against Zambia and profligate against Ghana, Nigeria's Nations Cup display was nowhere near capacity.

nigeria_afp595.jpgNigeria finished third at the Africa Cup of Nations but still let their coach go

The Super Eagles tend to build in first gear but they surely need a far higher tempo if they are to fly.

While goalscoring was sometimes a problem, Yakubu and Obafemi Martins often misfiring, the real concern is the lack of a playmaker - with the midfield stacked with defensive players (John Obi Mikel, Dickson Etuhu, Sani Kaita, Yussuf Ayila), leaving a heavy burden on Osaze Odemwingie, Nigeria's best outfield player in Angola, to provide the flair.

As Zambia's fine teamwork so eloquently pointed out in the quarter-final, when they ran Nigeria incredibly close before losing on penalties, the Super Eagles are more a bunch of individuals than a team - an uphill task for the new man, especially with just three months to prepare for Group B rivals Argentina, South Korea and Greece.

Critics have long been saying this about Nigeria but it's not an accusation often levelled at Ivory Coast.

Like their West African brothers, the lack of a midfield creator was also obvious, for while Yaya Toure and Didier Zokora form a dynamic destructive duo, they are not known for their link-up play or game-breaking vision. This role has often fallen to Abdulkader Keita and Bakary Kone, but neither saw much action in Angola, and Gervinho, 22, couldn't deliver upon the enormous expectations upon his young shoulders.

Yet however problematic the creativity, it's nothing compared to the defensive shambles displayed in the quarter-final defeat to Algeria. For the Ivorian defence and midfield lost all shape - a point defender Madjid Bougherra exquisitely emphasised when profiting from appalling marking to score Algeria's crucial 92nd-minute equaliser.

"Great teams do not let a 2-1 lead slip with just a few minutes left," said Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic. "We came with great hopes and as is always the case, Ivory Coast has failed to deliver. It is not a physical problem, it is a mental one."

Was it mental - or was it the nine-day break between matches caused as a result of Togo's Group B withdrawal? Critics will target the former, especially since the Elephants have choked before: losing the 2006 Nations Cup final (to Egypt), the 2008 semi-final against the same opposition - before succumbing to Algeria this time.

It seems the Ivorians struggle with well-organised opposition, a regular trait amongst North African sides, yet their Group G opponents - North Korea, Portugal and Brazil - will all possess this quality. Equally worrying is that some fans are losing faith in Didier Drogba, whose under-par performances in Angola angered many Ivorians.

I'm unclear whether Cameroonians feel the same about Samuel Eto'o but he was not at his best in Angola. Coach Paul Le Guen deployed him behind the front two in the quarter-final defeat to Egypt. With Eto'o's predatory instincts, why would you play him anywhere but as an out-and-out striker? Especially when the impressive Achille Emana can make things happen from that deeper-lying role.

There were further surprises as much was expected of midfield duo Stephane Mbia and Jean Makoun.

But Mbia was given just 45 minutes while Makoun was dropped for the big one against Egypt. In their place came Enoh Eyong and George Mandjeck, 21, who impressed against the Pharaohs.

"I made the choice of regeneration to give this team new impetus," Le Guen explained. "The Egypt match showed I was justified in doing this."

At long last, the defence was also changing, with Rigobert Song finally dropped from the starting line-up as the new breed of Nicolas N'Koulou and Aurelian Chedjou took the central reins.

But Cameroon often conceded early goals and Egypt exposed failings in goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, so often a rock but not against Ahmed Hassan.

Rahim Ayew and Hans SarpeiGhana impressed in Angola despite a number of setbacks

More positively, all of the Indomitable Lions' 19 outfield players tasted action in Angola and being at altitude in Lubango, which lies at 1750 metres, will stand them in good stead for Group E matches against Japan in Bloemfontein (1400m) and Denmark in Pretoria (1275m) - with only the final match against Holland being at sea level.

But the team that gained most from Angola were Ghana. Deprived of six regular starters, including an entire midfield and two defensive stalwarts, Ghana's youngsters made light of the troubles as they shone in a sink-or-swim situation - which will help the Black Stars when tackling a tough-looking Group D (Germany, Australia and Serbia).

Ghana's mentality has been questioned before but not this time as Kojo Asamoah, Samuel Inkoom, Agyemang Badu and Opoku Agyemang showed great fortitude in high-pressure matches and an incredibly bright future for Ghanaian football.

Built upon last year's under-20 World Cup winners, six of the team that started the final against Egypt were 22 or under but they won't just walk into the World Cup team, especially now that Milovan Rajevac has buried his differences with Sulley Muntari.

"For the World Cup, you need players with experience and we can find that in John Mensah, John Pantsil, (Laryea) Kingston, Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari. There are others too," said the Serb.

After the final, Rajevac blamed a lack of experience for Egypt's late winner but he pointed out the obvious as well - that the experience gained by his youngsters will be crucial come June. Unafraid to take harsh decisions, the coach showed his qualities when reaching the final despite endless injuries and challenges.

But surely his best achievement was Ghana's genuine teamwork - a quality their West African World Cup rivals lacked. And who's to say the team would have performed so well if his stellar names (Essien, Muntari, Pantsil etc.) had been fit to replace the supreme hunger and confidence of youth?

For some of the biggest stars in Angola - like Drogba, Eto'o and Mikel - were amongst the biggest disappointments. Is that because some of their hunger to contest a Nations Cup has been removed by the lavish lifestyle, adulation and footballing atmosphere found in Europe?

And it not, what else may it be? Whatever the answer, I'm sure we'll see some very different African displays come June.

I'll be looking at Algeria's World Cup prospects - and what threat they pose to Group C rivals England - on this blog in the near future.


  • Comment number 1.

    The majority of the African teams that will participate in South Africa this summer have had a poor African Cup of Nations competition and the stand out team of the tournament was been Egypt (who did not qualify for the World Cup). Only Ghana with a young improving but depleted squad showed any spark.

    The African Cup of Nations has highlighted some of the frailties of African football and the game between rivals Egypt and Algeria emphasised this. The tournament was been littered with goal keeping errors and has highlighted the lack of teamwork and indiscipline suffered by many teams.

    Egypt showed how organisation and consistency can reap rewards for their Nation. In a continent where footballing authorities are notorious for their misdemeanours and trigger happy tendancies to sack coaches, Egypt has stuck with their team and coach Hassan Shehata who has been in charge since 2004. This has led to consistency and players know what is expected of them. On top of this they have a colourful but albeit steady goalkeeper behind a defence that is organised and has played together on many different occaisions. They are good on the ball and have the ability to keep possession something most teams have struggled to do so far in the competition.

    Some nations were unlucky due to injuries, poor pitches and refereeing decisions at the African Cup of Nations, nevertheless star studded teams like Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast with Drogba, Mikel and Eto'o have struggled and perhaps Egypt are a timely reminder as to how African teams should prepare for the forthcoming World Cup.

    For me looking to the World Cup I see Ghana as the possible African dark horses, but they have a tough group and could end up playing against England in the second round. I really hope for the sake of the continent that an African team goes a long way in the competition, although it will not be the hosts South Africa. It would be great if they could win their opening match however as it would ignite the tournament.

    Algeria do not have the quality, despite being technically good to get out of their group whilst Ivory Coast have some tough fixtures. Cameroon and Nigeria could do well but they will need to improve on their African Cup of Nations form.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ob Jon Mikel has to be the most overrated player of all time, what a poor midfield player. I'm sure if you instructed any player to play within a 20 yard circumfrence, only takle, block and foul and win the occasional header they would be as effective as him. He offers absolutely nothing going forward, not even the odd fanciful pass and poses no gaol threat at all. As long as he is in the heart of a nigerian midfield...they will not challenge any team at the world cup.

    In terms of an African team winning the wrold cup - they simply will not.

    If you are looking for a stand out player, look no further than Steven Pienaar who will fall into the world cup at the peak of his abilities. Arguably one of the EPL's outstanding performers and this will show in abundance come the summer. Just you wait

  • Comment number 3.

    I was really disappointed in the African Cup of Nations.. I understand it was always going to be overshadowed after what happened but the performances were close to shambolic at times by some teams..

    I, like many people, had predicted an African team to win or be in the final in the next couple of World Cups... Im starting to revise that opinion.. Ghana can list injuries to a few players but I just feel a lot of the big guns look to have taken a step backward..

    I hope to be proven wrong in the summer as these countries bring a freshness and level of excitement that you don't get with many other national teams.. but somehow I cant see it happening..

  • Comment number 4.

    I firmly believe (although having said that I was adamant in 1994) that this will be the first World Cup where the hosts go out in the first round.

    Also cannot see any African nation getting beyond the quarter-finals and even then, I feel that is highly optimistic.

  • Comment number 5.

    Poor understanding of the African game from Piers Edwards in my humble opinion. I expected a deep analysis that would indicate exactly what happened in Angola. First of all, African football is very physical - this is why so many Africans do well in the English Premier League - conversely, this accounts for why so many South Americans tend to struggle in the EPL (see Robinho)

    Being such a physical game, countries selecting players who mostly play their football in Africa tend to do better (Egypt, Ghana) and you were right that Ghana might not have done so well had Muntari et al. been in the team.

    Secondly, you forgot to mention one very important factor or perhaps you do not know. The African Cup of Nations represents the biggest stage for some players to showcase their talents, these players will be desperate to make an impression and will play at 150% unlike the Drogba's and Etoo's of this world who are already acknowledged world wide as world class. Come the world cup however, it will be a different ball game and a totally different mentality.

    YOur assertion that West African teams tend to struggle against organized opposition was a wholly inaccurate, and if I might add lazy conclusion. NIgeria recently drew with Ireland - a result Ireland was fortunate to get and in their very next match beat France at home (can't remember whether it was in Paris or elsewhere in France).

    Remember that in the 2006 World Cup, Ghana soundly beat the Czech Republic and United States before losing to Brazil in questionable circumstances (with regards to officiating) an experience not uncommon to African people when faced with supposedly superior European and South American giants.

    And despite being in a group of death, the Ivory Coast still beat Serbia (a very organised team, and if I might add, probably more organized than Egypt) after losing narrowly to Holland and Argentina - no arguments there

    Surprisingly, one of the more 'organised' African teams in that tournament only managed a 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia, losing the rest of their matches and finishing a relatively easy group with just a point.

    If you go a bit further back, you will recall Nigeria beat 'well-organized' Bulgaria 3-0 and Greece 2-0 in the Group stages before losing in the second round to a very questionable Roberto Baggio penalty in extra time. And in 1998 topped their qualifying group. A group that included Spain (whom they beat 3-2), Bulgaria (whom they beat 1-0) before losing to Paraguay after qualification and indeed 1st position in the group had been achieved.

    Let's put things into their proper perspective. If you are expecting these teams to show the same (admittedly very poor) form at the World Cup as they displayed in Angola, they you do need more research on African football.

    Just a thought

  • Comment number 6.

    On another point. I'm just baffled at why the western press choose to report what happened in Angola as 'Terrorist attack'. Does the same English language not have words such as 'Rebels', 'Guerillas' and 'Separatists' all of which are a more appropriate description for these attackers.

    We all know the general usage of the word 'Terrorist' and it certainly does not apply here, so one can only conclude that these reports are aimed at discrediting Africa as whole with particular emphasis on the World Cup being held in South Africa? Or perhaps, it is meant to discourage World competitions from being held in Africa for another 100 years. Never mind that there were recent 'Terrorist' attacks in London and New York. And these terrorists were the real deal!

    This apparently is not preventing London from hosting the 2012 Olympics, oh I forgot, thats different?

  • Comment number 7.

    Dapsy thank you for your comments mate, i agree with you; Nigeria's problem is not in terms of not having a team, it's not having a coach whom the players respect!
    The semi final game against Ghana on another day would easily have been a white wash because i counted at least 4 one-on-one chances that a fit and in form Martins would have put away...oh well, can't wait for the world cup here...NIGERIA!

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Piers,

    Interesting blog, was wondering if you could shed some light on why Egypt failed to qualify for the world cup?

    I have watched the last two cup of nations and they seem to be the only side with any cohesion and teamwork. They also appear to be one of a few sides playing anything other than an othadox 4-4-2 formation, hence underlining how their organisation is an advantage.Do you think African sides generally suffer from tactical naivety?

    I also remember a player, Mohammed Aboutrika, who played particularly well in 2008, why has he he never made the move to Europe he seems like a good playmaker?

  • Comment number 9.

    I have feeling that this will be one of the most disappointing world cup for Africa.
    The 2006 event was an incredible journey for Ghana and Cote d' Ivoire and I thought that these teams would build on that, but as Mikey no3 wrote "I think the big guns have taken a step backward"
    The African Nations cup was very disappointing, the quality of football was terrible and if that is what is going to be on display in S.A, then we should not expect too much.
    By the way I agree with the assessment, this will be the first W.C the hosts go out in the first round.

  • Comment number 10.

    None of them should be going to the WC anyway, after the disgrace which is the 2-tournament ban on Togo.

    One continent? Right.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have always thought that Egypt would be the African team to make a breakthrough at the World Cup-rather than Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast etc.
    Egypt play almost like a European team, very rigid hard to break down. What they lack is that one or two World class players ie. the type that can create from nothing a goal.

    It is pretty evident that Egypt are the most organized team in Africa. However, maybe the other African teams need some preparation in May/June before the tournament starts. But then we shouldn't be surprised to see in-fighting which seem to affect Cameroon or Nigeria at World Cups. The problem seems to be preparation-or the lack of it. The African Nations Cup is situated in the middle of most players' season-imagine if the European Championships were held in Jan. This inevitably affects most teams, Egypt always seem least affected.

  • Comment number 12.

    Depsy - think the word 'terrorist' seems to be used whenever there is a use of force with an underlying political motive. Due to the link with the independence movement of the region, the attack has been labelled 'terrorism'.

    As for players to look out for, I've rated Madjid Bougherra since I saw him make his English football league debut with Crewe and was delighted when Sheffield Wednesday signed him. Since then his career progression has gradually been gaining pace. A few seasons back I told my mates he had potential to be considered one of the best defenders in the world due to his unrivalled composure on the ball. I was laughed at with people saying there was no way he would ever be on the same level as the likes of Terry or Rio. After a gliterring world cup I can see him being snapped up by a top top team (hopefully Arsenal).

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree with this writer in almost everything that he has written.Ghana was succesful because most of this young players were out there to make names for themselves and also to sell themselves. The likes of Essien, Muntari and Mensah used to show this enthusiasm when they were not having those lucrative contracts. As soon as they get them using the national team as a springboard, they dont care anymore.
    I pray it does not happen but let's see how these young players will behave after they have made names for themselves.
    They will show no respect to the African game and their national teams. Afterall they make enough money to come a play here in Africa and break their legs. My advice to the Black Stars coach is that he should concentrate on these youngsters for now to also make name for himself and as soon as they get what they want he should let them go because at that point, they won't care anymore.
    The so called senior players believe they have made enough money to die a little for their country.

  • Comment number 14.

    It is sad to say that an African team will not make it to the finals in South Africa. The reasons are simple: lack of discipline among the players, and exessive interferance with player selection as well as other coaching decisions by the FA. Any African team that is able to address both, or at least, one of these problems especially the latter can do exploits both during and after the world cup. I considered the interferance as greater problem because a coach can instill discipline in players himself. Has anybody ever wondered why Cameroon, Nigeria, as well as Senegal have not replicated their achievements of 1990, 1994, and 2002 respectively. The problems that I have pointed out coupled with corruption and maladministration of football by FAs in Africa are responsible. Having said this, it should be noted that the nations' cup has hardly been a clear representation of the world cup. There will be surprises. I see Nigeria, for example, doing well. My only concern is that bad officiating might get them eliminated when they play France in the second round. Most English fans think England will qualify at Algeria's detriment. This is not tru. Algeria will make it to the second round. Two factors can stand in the way of the Ivoiriens: bad officiating that I have earlier mentioned, and the quality of the other opponents in their group, Brazil and Portugal. I would like to see South Africa (the hosts) make it beyond the group stage, but that will be a miracle. It is still possible since miracles still do happen.

  • Comment number 15.

    Good blog Piers. I just want to point out a couple of things.

    1. Pitches in Angola were very bad. This makes a huge difference to passing football, shooting and crossing...and dribbling. Pitches in South Africa will be closer to the standard which drogba, eto and mikel are used to.

    2. The teams which play well in the african nations cup, in a world cup year, usually don't qualify for the world cup at all, or perform poorly. It's traditional to underperform in the nations cup then shock everyone (with a short memory)at the world cup.

    Peace to all. Viva Africa. Thankyou.

  • Comment number 16.

    @13 Collins Osei. That's very cynical. Football is very difficult. Teams make tactical plans to neutralise star players. All respect to Ghana's youngsters though. I still believe Essien has a lot to prove and I believe in him. He was injured what could he do? Now you're saying he doesn't love his people?

  • Comment number 17.


    Ive said countless times in these blogs no African team can lift the World Cup at present because of poor team work, ill discipline, naivety, mental weakness etc etc. I was hounded for making these statements, yet wow, big surprise, watching the ACN proves African football still suffers all the problems they are renowned for.

    Just a side thought - are African individuals always as good as we think? Or are they made to look better according to the players around them? It would appear that when lesser players are played alongside the likes of Drogba and Eto'o then they become ineffective. The true GREATS can perform alongside any team mates

  • Comment number 18.

    More positively, all of the Indomitable Lions' 19 outfield players tasted action in Angola and being at altitude in Lubango, which lies at 1750 metres, will stand them in good stead for Group E matches against Japan in Bloemfontein (1400m) and Denmark in Pretoria (1275m) - with only the final match against Holland being at sea level.


    I don't believe you have written that. 1300m or there abouts? That's nothing and the problems of altitude only kicks in when you are playing well into the 2000m+ area (and especially at such as places as La Paz or Quito which are around 3000m above sea level.)

    It isn't a problem and there is no conclusive proof that playing at around minus 2000m sea level acts as a decisive clincher in which team has had the best physical preparation.

  • Comment number 19.

    With what I saw during the Nations Cup, any African team that makes it out of the group stages in the world cup should count themselves lucky,pat themselves on the back for a good job and get ready to go out in the knock out stages.
    The days when opponents under rated African teams in the world cup is over and I am sure this time around every one is coming to the table prepared.
    Stop fooling yourselves there is no way any of the African teams can get beyond the knock out rounds in this world cup which is a pity since the tournament is taking place on African soil.

  • Comment number 20.

    @17 Phil

    Your argument suggests that maybe Lionel Messi is not a true great then since he is rubbish in the Argentina shirt. Steven Gerrard is ok in an England shirt as well, but definitely not mind blowing! If you will agree on these points, then I might be inclined to take your side that maybe Drogba and Etoo are not true greats either.

  • Comment number 21.

    Good blog generally. Like most (not all) talented players the Africans lack discipline in a tactical sense, in favour of dazzling forays into the opponents box.

    Just think how Germany and Italy wear down opponents with strict organization and discipline at the back and a controlled aggression in the middle. Finally there is an orchestrated approach to goal where they either score or get a corner. The statistcs show very low shots off target. Compare this to the typical African bombardment of shots from all angles, heights and distances off target.

    Until the Africans learn to play as if they are on remote control from the men on the technical bench, we will continue to hear of rumours (mostly unproven) of thrown matches after a sound defeat. Of course we will perhaps never see the 9-0 scoreline of the Yugoslav v. Zaire match, but surely even expecting an African Team in the final in June 2010 is little more than a pipe dream.

  • Comment number 22.

    The African teams will do well enough to get out their groups in SA and anything further than that will be a surprise. African dfences and keepers are really quite shambolic. Although some teams possess good defenders at the back as individuals they are made to look very average for their country. As for keepers there will be a couple of funny gaffs from them in SA especially with the movement of the ball.

    The ACN failed to live up to expectations this year. Nobody really stood out, no big name player really showed his class and apart from a couple of the Ghanaian youngsters there was no player that broke through that made the World sit up and wonder "who was that, he looks a bit of alright".

    Although some of the teams have a bit of class going forward the lack or organisation and skill at the back will cost African teams at the WC. However England are lucky they are not playing Algeria at 8.30 local time because if they had 1 of the earlier kick offs the heat could of beat them because even at that time of night it will be warm. England have found themselves very lucky. Only one game at 4pm against Slovenia and if they are to makethe final they will be playing at 8.30 SA time every other game (going on if they win the group). If for any reason they finish second they will have the last 16 and QF at 4pm SA time.

    I was optimistic for the African teams in the WC before the ACN but thank goodness I didn't go the bookies to get a cheeky bet on an African team because now realistically i can only see Ghana and Algeria maybe getting out their respective groups in 2nd and that would be that.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hit the nail on the head: mentality.

    That's why some teams win the WC and others don't.

    That is where England are weakest. And where Germany are strongest.

    And that is why no African team will progress beyond the last 16 in this World Cup. (Unless we get another South Korea situation...).

    Mentality is as important as skill.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ #22.
    Point worthy of note is that it'll be cold season in SA when the world cup gets underway so don't fear the heat.

    My observation which corroborates some of the earlier posts is that Africa's "stars" don't give off their best in the ACN because of the timing of the tournament. They are hardly willing to exert themselves for fear of injuries.

    Egypt on the other hand has done the obviously smart thing... They've strengthened their domestic league ensuring that majority of their players are retained at home. This translates into the cohesion in their play. Furthermore, the consistency in their technical team over a period (which most African teams lack) ensures a good team building process. That is the root of their success and i wish fellow Africans would take a cue rather than producing talent to feed the European leagues.

    All this was so evident in Angola 2010. Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Cameroun came with a host of stars but they didn't play as teams. The cohesion just wasn't there and neither was the commitment to die a little. Ghana and Zambia on the other hand showed what zeal and determination can do albeit lack of experience.

    Trust me, had Ghana fielded a star-studded squad like the Ivorians, i believe they would probably have exited the competition earlier.

    The World Cup, however, is a totally different ball game. It's the toast of the footballing world and i would be hesitant to condemn the African teams based on their performance in the "not-so-important" ACN.

    Playing at the WC is every footballer's dream. Hence these non-committed African players are willing to kill themselves at the WC. With the exception of Egypt, Africa is without doubt being represented by the most deadly quartet of teams in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Cameroun. With adequate preparation (unlike the 2 weeks prep for ACN) these teams will really hold their own against the rest of the world.

    I predict a semi-final berth for an African side in SA2010!


  • Comment number 25.

    Guys calm down...

    I strongly believe that African teams will well behave at this year WC in SA. I will definately not be suprised if one of them make it to the final and win the whole thing. There are no DOUBTS about that. Judging them on what they showed at this year ACN is a very BIG mistake. In 1990 for example, Cameroon underperformed at the ACN but they went on to reach the 1/4 at the WC the same year, with altmost the same players, by crushing the Argentina of Maradona (the greatest), Columbia of Valderama (El pibe), Romania, on their way, and by losing to England in the 1/4 final on a referee controversial game.

    The WC is a tournament which is different from the ACN. Several of the great African players did not show their true talents at this year ACN. ACN is a great tournement but nowadays it is not taking seriously by some talented African players, except for the home-based players that are still trying to make a name. In 1990 for example Egypt qualified for the WC and the ACN, but they sent their "B" team to the ACN.

    On the other hand, the WC is a different competion and a level up compared to ACN, and something that any ball players would love to add to their collection. Thus a great motivation for any player no matter where they play, come from, etc... The WC is among the greatest achievement in a ball player's life. Hence of, with only that idea in mind any player is boosted, amplified, and ready to give all they got on the field. So watch for the following players when comes June: Eto'o, Song-bilong, Drogba, Toure, Essien, Muntari, Mikel, Martins, etc...

    They will make Africa and Africans proud , because they won't let anybody come and steal the GOLD from them. They won't sit in the field as you guys are thinking, and let that happen. No, no way, not at this WC organized in Nelson Mandela's Country.

    Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Algeria, and South Africa will shine.

  • Comment number 26.

    The the ANC I noticed that the African teams were a bit 'fur coat and no knickers' in that they had players that could do the tricks and flicks but showed an ineptitude in the basics of passing and keeping possession of the ball, rarely did i see a team string together passes for any sustained length of time. I find this surprising considering the increased movement of African players into Europe, surely these fundamentals should be passed on. Another surprising fact I find is that there seems to be no respected West African managers emerging, teams like Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroun opt for foreign coaches as there isn't the standard of manager in their own country. This is surpirsing as Africans started to emerge in European teams in the 90s, surely they would receive the opportunity to get the badges and try to make a difference in their home country by imprinting a sense of identity in their respective national teams.

  • Comment number 27.

    The performance at the ACN does not mean anything in the world cup. Ivory Coast went to final in 2006 and got knock out in the first at the WC. Ghana was out at first round in the ACN and performed better than any African country in WC 06. One thing for sure the performance of the African teams at WC is not predictable.Eygpt wins the ACN and does not qualify for the WC I hope they do well. As a Ghanaian .The black stars will lift the Cup. The EU teams are not playing any special football.EU has high representation.Two teams out of 13 can easily shine in such a tournament.Lets all wait and see.

  • Comment number 28.

    To start with, apart from the fact that most foreign-based African players teams chose not to ‘die a little’ for their countries on the pitch, teams with foreign based players suffer mainly from lack of proper preparation for the African cup of Nations due to the 14 days release clause and this may continue unless CAF adjust its calendar. African teams going to the world have often had a bad nations cup (with the exception of Nigeria in 1994 and Senegal in 2002) only to explode and cause upset at the world cup – Tunisia in 78, Cameroun in 82 & 90, Algeria in 86 & Ghana in 2006 are classical examples and history will repeat itself come SA 2010. So anyone underrating the under performers at the Nations cup – Nigeria, Cameroun & Ivory Coast does so at their own peril! This is principally because the world cup offers bigger motivation in terms of opportunity to move to a better club with fatter pay cheques. For Ghana, their remarkable performance at the Nations cup and subsequent rating to be Africa’s top performer at the World cup should not get into their head otherwise… As for the Super Eagles, I think the real concern for is not lack of a playmaker but to get a tactically sound manager, which I pray the NFF get right this time!

  • Comment number 29.

    It is perhaps worth mentioning that the African ideology of football is significantly different from the typically European one (except Spain perhaps). I do not think the Africans share the "win at all costs" or "a win is a win" mentality. It is not a war game, rather more of a carnival or exhibition of artistic genius where exquisite skills can be showcased to an appreciative audience

    From the African perpective, a win has to be stylish and you would often find countries retaining coaches who lost but played with some style and / or determination (Zambia, Angola) but sacking managers who won but without the expected verve and style (Nigeria anyone).

    For most African countries, 3rd place would have been regarded as a decent achievement. Indeed this was the remit of Nigeria's Manager - Shuaibu Amodu. The fact however, that it was achieved in unconvincing fashion was galling for Nigerians, leading to calls for the sacking of Amodu - a call which has now been heeded.

    While winning is important, it must not be forgotten that football is primarily about entertainment. 32 countries will enter the world cup and only one country can win - but the competition is more exciting because of the glorious moments provided by the Zidane's and Roger Milla's of these world, the exotic goal celebrations, the magical moments (such as Saudi Arabias Said Oweiran's magical run in the 1994 world cup or Michael Owen's dazzling goal in 1998).

    You can get very disappointed with a fixation on winning. Better to play a good game and regard a win as a bonus! Like a well-run business, better to strive for customer satisfaction as a priority and the profits will usually flow accordingly.

    We only demand that whoever wins it produces some dazzling and entertaining performances along the way and proves worthy of the cup - like Spain were of Euro 2008. But it is not all about winning. Despite never winning a World Cup, it is widely acknowledged (amongst neutrals) that Spain is a vastly superior footballing nation to England. You could similarly make a very strong argument for Holland.

    It is more gratifying if the eventual winner is not aided by any questionable officiating decisions. Winning without deserving it is like a climax reached too quickly, leaving both parties distinctly dissatisfied.

    I am confident I speak for most when I say the African nations would be happy to go back to the drawing board if they lost to a superior footballing nation. They would however like to go out knowing they had showcased their skill, tried their best and had not gone out to any questionable officiating decisions.

    Let the games begin!

  • Comment number 30.

    Some people talk about tactical discipline..

    If u really know anything about the African game u'd know that teams like Ghana like to play flamboyant soccer pleasing to watch with deft touches and all... Remember the game against Brazil in Germany '06??

    What did we see at the ACN, however? A tactically-disciplined side that was well-composed defensively most of the time. The current coach believes in keeping it tight at the back, especially as he was so short on attacking options.

    Ghana qualified for the WC with 2 games to spare and without conceding any goals until the last 2 final games where he experimented a bit when they were already safe.

    I believe with the return of most of the more experienced regulars (especially the creative midfield)if the coach sticks to keeping it tight defensively while improving on the attacking potency, it will be a very balanced team.

    The ACN allowed the coach to also identify a solid substitute bench which has always been the bane of the Ghana team.

    Ivory Coast have a very very solid all-round team with a very strong bench. When you have a player like Keita Kader on the bench that tells u the depth of the squad. Their over-inflated egos were highly bruised at the ACN when they were regarded favorites but were humbled. They will be out to prove a point since most of them wont be around much longer after this WC. Drogba is what 32 now? Brazil beware!

    Nigeria. This is one of the giants of the African game but they have under-achieved in recent times. Unlike the Ghana and Ivory coast teams, they have massive problems within the FA. Nigeria's problem is basically to do with poor planning and organisation. Imagine shopping for a coach with 4 months to the WC.. However if they are lucky to land any of the top-notch coaches they are reported to be hunting, then this talent-endowed team will give Maradona a lot of headaches and nightmares.

    Cameroun is without doubt deadly when in the right shape and form and the WC will provide them that impetus. together with Nigeria they missed the last World Cup and will be more than ready to make amends this time around.

    I was always of the view that these above-mentioned teams together with Egypt would place Africa in serious contention for this most prestigious prize. Algeria beating Egypt to the slot (whatever the circumstances were) means they sure deserve their place. their resilience against Ivory Coast showed their fighting spirit. Funny enough the English are so quick to point at their semi-final defeat to Egypt... I pray they keep undermining their opponents that way.

    In general i see the ACN as an opportunity that allowed the African teams to experiment and tweak their teams and to expose their obvious deficiencies.

    Rather than use the performance to judge the quality to expect from Africa, i rather think it was a test-run that will provide them the chance to prepare adequately for the ultimate.

    The 'underdog' tag is always a good one to wear because it allows u room to spring surprises!

  • Comment number 31.

    In order for a team to reach the semis and/or finals, I think world class goalkeepers and defenders are the key. Compared to the top 8 countries in the world at the moment, the African teams going to the world cup are no match in that department. Where's the African Julio Cesar, Iker Casillas, Buffon etc?
    The likes of Toure, Yobo etc are decent enough defenders but can you see any of them getting into the French, Brazillian, Italian or Spanish squads?
    In my opinion, unless the African teams start to produce the keepers and defenders to match the top teams, they will never stand a chance of winning the thing.

  • Comment number 32.

    Egypt should have been in the WC. My jaw flapped wide open when i knew the so called 'neutral venue' was Sudan, who cant keep their own security let alone a match as big as Algeria v Egypt.

    Away from that, Ghana are the only African nation that looks like doing any damage to the Euro-South American monopoly of the WC. They are the only country who werent outplayed by Egypt (or any other country). Nigeria had a hard time with Zambia, while Algeria lost 4-0 to Egypt though the victory against Ivory Coast deserves them some credit. Cameroon are completely out of the run. So our only hope, us Africans, lies with the Young Ghanaian Squad.

  • Comment number 33.

    #31 and 32... Sorry but you guys are completely wrong and will be greatly disapointed when come June.

    I will see how a South American or European team with all their "so called stars" will win that GOLD on African soil before I accept.

    # 31, there are several African players that can be in the starting XI of several European and South American starting teams. As proof, they play in the biggest clubs in Europe where they are in the first XI and their Europeans fellows on the bench. There is no question about African football talents. Africa has (current and past) football players that are far talented than their European or South American fellows.

    In their time, George Weah, Abedi Pele, Roger Milla, etc... would have made it in the first eleven of any South American or European teams. You had to be a blind coach not to play them. Same thing goes for Essien, Eto'o, Drogba, etc... today.

    # 32 Egypt has always been great when it comes to play at the African (ACN) level. On the World level they have always disappointed.

    Am very happy that these four African nations (Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire) are among those representing Africa in SA. I know they will shine. I strongly believe that they have what it takes to change the current order or believes of the beautiful game.

    Ghana has showed it more recently at the Junior and the under 21 level.

    This GOLD will stay on African soil for the next four years. There is no DOUBT about that.

  • Comment number 34.

    If my memory serves me right, Africa has two of the last four Olympic gold medals in the senior category, the U20 world cup, Nigeria has 3 titles Under 17 and Ghana has the same title twice.

    So, why this?

    Simply to tell you that Africa's got talent, strong enough to put to shame giants like Brazil, Argentine and others. ACN is just a spotlight for European teams to pick the young talents. That's it!

    While I stay optimistic though, I still doubt any African team will go past the quarterfinals, but in case it happened I simply wanted to make sure you wouldn't be surprised! In Africa you never know :)

  • Comment number 35.

    # 31, there are several African players that can be in the starting XI of several European and South American starting teams. As proof, they play in the biggest clubs in Europe where they are in the first XI and their Europeans fellows on the bench. There is no question about African football talents. Africa has (current and past) football players that are far talented than their European or South American fellows.

    In their time, George Weah, Abedi Pele, Roger Milla, etc... would have made it in the first eleven of any South American or European teams. You had to be a blind coach not to play them. Same thing goes for Essien, Eto'o, Drogba, etc... today.

    I think you completely misunderstood me here. I didn't say African teams do not have quality players that can't get into European sides. I'm talking about Goalkeepers & Defenders here. Of all those players you just named, how many of them are top class defenders & goalkeepers?
    My argument is that a team needs a top class defense to win the tournament. Name me one African team that has that at the moment? I was not talking about forwards & midfielders here. All I'm saying is that you need the complete package. African teams have plenty of skill & flair in midfield and attack no doubt, but that alone is not enough. Even Spain who are renowned for their beautiful football have some solid defenders in the form of Puyol, Pique, Albiol, Capdevilla etc. They also have Reina & Valdez as back up for Casillas, hence why they stand a chance of winning the whole thing. Same goes for Brazil, Italy.

  • Comment number 36.

    I know without doubt that SA will provide the platform for an Africa team to reach the final looking at the quality of players in Nigeria,CIV, Cameroun and Ghana you will agree with me that it is only attitude that is lacking once that is taken care of am assuring you that the world will be taken by storm let not forget SA who show the world at the last confederation cup that they can hold their own when it matter the draws for the mudial,i will say is a blessing to the Africa representative let us not use the CAN to judge the team bicos the timing is really affecting the continet biggest export let watch out for the team.

  • Comment number 37.

    Someone mentioned above about lack of Goalkeepers from Africa. But anyone who knows African football knows that African goalkeepers have been amongst the best: Best Ogendengbe, Thomas Nkono, Joseph Antoine Bell etc etc. In fact, do you know why Gigi Buffon named his son Thomas? Go find it - Buffon named him Thomas for Thomas Nkono, who Buffon said was the best goalkeeper ever. So the idea that Africa does not rear goalies is not correct. You will be hard pressed to find anyone who will disagree that Cameroon's Carlos Kameni is not one of the best goalkeepers in the world (this ACN aside which I think was more a reflection of Cameroon's shoddy defense than Kameni's skill).

    The ACN has never been the marker for African teams' WC performance. Besides, without making excuses, the fact is Nigeria's strikers (Yakubu and Obafemi) just returned from long term injuries. When WC rolls around, they would be firing as usual. Plus Yobo will be back so Nigeria will be a threat.

    Ghana is the most balanced team and will go very far. Cote D'Ivoire is the most talented but my biggest worry is they tend to choke. I expect the coach will correct that. South Africa is a wild card because it is home soil and they have some good players. Algeria needs to relax and play North African style of football. If they do, and they will, their group is not that difficult to take.

    Cameroun is star-studded. However, the injury-forced withdrawal of Assou-Ekotto on the left and the coach's madenning decision to drop Bassong forced the Cameroon defense into disarray. The defense consigned Cameroon to mediocrity. Song, Chedjou and N'Koulou were not up to par in central defense, and frankly, even though I love the great Rigobert Song, he no longer should be the lion in the Lions' defense. So, with an adjustment in WC of Bassong, Assou Ekotto and Chedjou, Cameroon will be back to its best ( boasting a midfield of Nguemo, Makoun, Song-Billong, Mbia, along with Eto, Webo, Enoh infront of them, Cameroon can be a force in WC if they can sort out the backline). I am not concerned about Kameni at all as he is one of the best goalkeepers.

    So I don't share the doom and gloom about Africa's teams' prospects at WC at all. They will roar and soar and I firmly believe they can keep the WC in African soil. Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Holland, who are the pre-tournament favorites are all beatable.

  • Comment number 38.

    I only saw the ANC on TV but agree the pitches looked bad. Pity when the Chinese build all these stadia they can't install pitches which will last too. Reminded me of what I saw at Mali 2002. Bottom line though, I'll be in SA, but will I be trying to see African sides? Or expecting them to do well? Not really. The only attractive stuff came from non-qualifiers like Egypt and Zambia. Ghana were dull. Cote d'Ivoire and Cameroon have too many old players and too many weakpoints. For the Ivorians to already be claiming theirs is the WC group of death is typical (I lived in Abidjan for 8 years). North Korea? Portugal, who only just squeezed past Bosnia & Herzegovina? Come on, a quality, committed CDI should beat them. But I'm surprised Drogba and co have yet to get rid of the coach. If Toure was still top notch, Wenger would not have sold him. Not sure how powerful the players are in Cameroon but how can Rigobert Song keep his place...Nigeria, well, very poor in Angola, now being silly and messing with management, subscribing to all the stereotypes. Algeria only qualified because Egypt screwed up so will be odds on to finish 4th. Their main aim must be not to get too many red cards and blame refs when they lose. As for South Africa, think a lot will depend on their home support. Will there be any. I have managed to get a ticket for the Uruguay game so I wonder how much interest there really is.

  • Comment number 39.

    for goodness sake, this blog is not about egypt. we all know the reasons to why egypt do well at African conpetitions, lets leave it to that.

    coming back to the subject of the African representatives, i think we are going to see a better football than what we had seen in Angola. Ivory Coast have a difficult group but are more than capable of causing few surprises.Cameroon will definatly up their level and will behard to beat. Algeria are well equiped to go through to the next round.Ghana young team will do well to progress and South Africa will need the fans support if that is enough.

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi #8: re. Egypt’s successive WC failures, this is a question which even Egyptians find difficult to answer - and when they do, they tend to focus on November’s play-off vs. Algeria, where they find endless reasons for the defeat: ranging from the quality of the Khartoum pitch, the less-than-ideal security situation, the fact that the Algerians were supported by their hard-core fans while the Egyptians sent TV, film and political stars to follow the team, as well as the fact that certain players were not fully fit. Others talk about over-confidence and while that’s a moot point for defeat in Khartoum, it can certainly apply to Egypt’s previous World Cup campaigns - for the Pharaohs’ qualifying dreams have often been derailed by lesser-rated opponents.

    Starting with 1994, the first finals they missed after appearing at Italy ‘90, the Pharaohs lost an early qualifier in Zimbabwe who went on to controversially top the group after their defeat to Egypt in Cairo was replayed - because of a thrown stone - and drawn (which meant the Zimbabweans, and not the North Africans, made it through to the final qualifying round). In 1998, they went down 1-0 in Liberia (a certain George Weah netting) when a win would have kept them in contention with eventual finalists Tunisia. 2002 was a different matter as Egypt contested a group with then high-flying Senegal as well as a stubborn Morocco and a weak Algeria, but it was a draw away to little-fancied Namibia that cost them (for a win would have put the pressure on the Senegalese ahead of the last round of matches, which both Egypt and the West Africans started level on points: the Teranga Lions qualified for Asia after thumping Namibia while Egypt could only draw in Algeria). In 2006, Egypt were in their hardest group, against an experienced Cameroonian and an up-and-coming Ivory Coast: the Elephants beat the Pharaohs home and away, but a draw in Benin and defeat in Libya had already dashed Egypt's World Cup dreams.

    While mentioning over-confidence in their World Cup failures, Egyptians also point to a lack of stability in terms of playing staff, the technical team and the EFA directors for previous failures - but they will admit that everything was pretty much perfect for 2010. But then the circumstances against Algeria proved extraordinary and after the acrimony finally died down, the Egyptian press stopped looking externally and started commenting on how the team simply hadn’t played well in Sudan. That said, it’s worth remembering that in the Cairo game four days earlier, which Egypt won 2-0 to force a rare play-off, the Pharaohs had a chance to score in the 96th minute - but Mohamed Barakat’s header was just too close to the Algerian keeper when the other side of the goal was gaping. Winning 3-0 would have qualified Egypt for South Africa on goal difference, and that is the famous fine line between success and failure.

    As for Mohamed Aboutreika, he’s undoubtedly one of the best players Africa has ever produced and the reason for his lack of a European move is, as far as we know, that he has never had any concrete offers. Despite being one of the continent’s most stylish and creative players - often labelled the African ‘Zinedine Zidane’ - Aboutreika’s problem with regards to joining a top European side would seem to be his late rise to prominence, for he only began delivering the goods with Al Ahly when aged 25-26. Although the European clubs must have been impressed by his match-winning displays in Nations Cup, African Champions League and Club World Cup ties, his ‘old age’ has seemingly counted against him. Aboutreika, now 31, has said he would relish a crack at La Liga - but it’s never come. Instead, every time a top Middle Eastern side offers big money to Al Ahly for Aboutreika, the Cairo giants do everything in their power to offer the playmaker further financial incentives to make sure a man who is already extremely well-paid stays at home. And that sadly is where he may well watch the World Cup, a stage his talents would undoubtedly have graced and surely deserved.

  • Comment number 41.

    hi @40: egypt won in cairo in a game that should've never taken place. you omitted the fact that the Algerian players were injured in a premeditated attack on the evening before the game. Also, you mentioned that barakat missed a 3rd that would've qualified egypt, but did not say that their 2nd goal was scored in the 95th minute and wrongly allowed because it was clearly off-side, that is the fine line between going to South Afica and not. don't really know why we still talking about egypt.

  • Comment number 42.


    This is directed mainly at Piers Edwards. Firstly, I congratulate Egypt for winning the African nations cup. But people always seem to want to talk about why they aren't in the World cup. Firstly, (to Piers #40) you failed to point out that when Algeria played Egypt in Blida, Algeria were winning 3-0 and Aboutrika (a great player, by the way) scored a very late consolation which ended up taking Egypt to the play off. In addition, in the game in Cairo, you have pointed out the late miss that Egypt had, which, by the way, if my memory serves me well was not a header and was not on target but was instead a shot, from a cross, that went just wide. You yet again fail to point out all the misses that the Algerian team had. One was at the end of the first half, and another was Saifi being one on one with the goalkeeper who made an excellent save. ALso, Egypts 2nd goal was offside, as pointed out by no.41. Considering the trauma from the attack two days before, I think that Algeria had a very good game, which you would surely agree with if you watched the game back. A last point is that many people seem to be saying that the venue in Sudan and the pitch was a problem- I would just like to point out that Egypt chose Sudan as their venue and Algeria chose Tunisia, and when a FIFA official put the two countries in a hat, he pulled out Sudan. So, Egypt chose it as a venue and so that can be no excuse whatsoever. Over the three games in the world cup qualifier, I believe (and yes I may be biased as I am an Algerian supporter) that Algeria where the better team and thoroughly deserved their to qualify. To end, my theory on why Egypt didnt qualify for the world cup - because they always seem to step up their game in the African nations cup, but not once have they played like they do in a CAN, in the World cup qualifiers. So, those who believe that Egypt would represent Africa well IN A WORLD CUP are, in my honest opinion, mistaken.
    (Would be grateful for a reply on this matter by Piers Edwards).

  • Comment number 43.

    The nigeria FA is one of the most controversial footbal association in the world. The administrator know less about football and the corruption level is very high. The sacking of amodu by nff is not their will,by keeping amodu the nff will have chance to squander the FA funds bcos amodu only follows instruction and they also shared his salaries and bonuses.That is why is taking them long to found a new and genuine coach for the eagles.I will advice any big coach not to go to nigeria and this is my reason, this big coach were coming from an organised and less corrupt organisations and for them to come to nigeria it will be a nightmare for them, nff is very confusing and unorganised association. we need a coach who understand the african sysyem and who can canvass respect among the players and the assocaition. Super eagle is getting worst day by day no establish player and their unpatriotic attitude is also of concern to me, in a situation we have to beg players to play for their fatherland. Some players needs to be caution by the nff.we have good players but their attitude toward game is very poor. the nation was just a pure luck since am growing up this is the worst set of eagles honestly. I think after the world cup our footbal should go on reccess for at list 2years.

  • Comment number 44.

    It is rather interesting that a lot of people do not rate South Africa`s chances in the World Cup but somehow I think that suits us just fine. Without pressure of massive expectations gives Bafana Bafana space to concentrate on their build up without a lot of intrusion as everybody would be watching everybody but them.

    A lot of people will be surprised as this team has a lot of individual players who might not be household names in Europe but are very good players. The coach just needs to pick the right eleven on the day.

    I will put a few bob on South Africa at least making the quarters, with the current mindset I know I will get very good odds.

  • Comment number 45.

    Hi Piers:

    Thanks, for the excellent analysis of Africa's WORLD CUP contenders..

    (Dennis Junior)

  • Comment number 46.

    I am worried about Ivory Coast. They are in a very tough group but they do not look that well prepared.

    They have excellent players but that is not enough. They had a poor AFCON and performed very poorly in a recent friendly. I think they need a new coach and a new captain to replace Drogba who is running out of ideas, complacent and not very committed to the Ivorian side. And unfortunately it seems he has a very big influence on the team.

    I have confidence in Cameroon. They have a good team and a good coach.

    However, with a focused mind, a good coach who can muffle Drogba's influence on other players and a real desire to win The Elephants can impress. All the best Africa


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