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Africa fall foul of familiar mistakes

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Piers Edwards | 13:00 UK time, Thursday, 8 July 2010

For the first time at a World Cup, Africa had six representatives - Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, South Africa.

Whether world governing body Fifa will maintain that tally for the 2014 finals in Brazil is debatable after all but one of the sides disappointed in South Africa.

Africa's hopes of World Cup success in 2010 ultimately came down to one kick, a penalty that smacked the bar and soared high into the Johannesburg sky - taking the continent's dreams of a first semi-final appearance along with it.

But had Ghana's Asamoah Gyan converted that spot-kick against Uruguay, it would have disguised what has been a poor tournament for Africa.

The continent registered only three wins from 18 group games - a record that sits uncomfortably alongside South America's tally of 10 from 15.

Playing 'at home' was supposed to help Africa's sides but, as former Nigerian midfielder Jay-Jay Okocha has claimed, perhaps too many thought this perceived advantage removed the need for good preparations.


Asamoah Gyan's last-minute penalty rattles the crossbar (Picture: Associated Press)

Okocha has long lamented the "fire brigade approach" of African football administrators, a point supported by compatriot Amos Adamu, a Confederation of African Football and Fifa executive committee member.

"Even if you give us 10 years to prepare, it will be the same because many of these countries don't recognise professionalism in their preparations," Adamu told the BBC. "One of the problems is that we need to plan ahead."

In brief, the continent has failed to learn from previous mistakes: replacing coaches at the 11th hour, chaotic preparations, a lack of long-term planning as well as player power problems (in a continent where the biggest stars wield enormous influence).

I'd argue that only Ghana and Algeria actually prepared well, given that both federations had long-standing policies in place.

By doing most things right (paying bonuses promptly, ensuring youth players are of the right age to ensure senior success etc.), Ghana's Football Association provided a quality that is exceptionally rare in African football - stability.

The reward was some superb play and a quarter-final finish. In a land where indiscipline is rife and youngsters often overlooked, it was refreshing to see coach Milovan Rajevac drop the big names if they stepped out of line and give youth its chance - which Dede Ayew (20), Isaac Vorsah (22) and Kevin-Prince Boateng (23) all seized.

Meanwhile, Algeria explored all possible avenues to achieve World Cup success.

Seven years ago, they lobbied Fifa to change its rules on player eligibility so successfully that nine of their World Cup starting line-up had chosen the Algerian cause ahead of France's. The end result was a first World Cup in 24 years.

The problem in South Africa was simple: A lack of goals. Algeria's last seven games have now produced only one goal, so holding (a poor) England to a goalless draw was some reward for the endeavours of coach Rabah Saadane and the Algerian federation.

ghezzal_algeria_getty.jpgAlgeria's Abdelkader Ghezzal contemplates his team's Group C defeat to USA (Picture: Getty Images)

While Ghana and Algeria exceeded expectations, Cameroon, Africa's highest-ranked team and possessing one of the world's greatest strikers in Samuel Eto'o, were the biggest let-downs.

Coach Paul Le Guen, who quit after his side's exit, made some strange decisions for the critical opening-day defeat against Japan, which were only explained when reports of in-fighting later emanated.

Or should that be Emana'ted? Le Guen's omission of the creative Achille Emana was baffling until it emerged that the Real Betis man and Eto'o, who was inexplicably played on the wing, were spearheading rival camps in the dressing room - so much so that they later staged a 'display of unity' before the media.

Cameroon's press officer, Linus Pascal Fonda, has since talked of "an implacable hatred between team-mates" and revealed how some unused players cheered when the Indomitable Lions conceded goals.

"These are people who earn enormous sums of money but who have lost their core values," said Fonda.

As a result, a side boasting several talents - Nkoulou, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto, Mbia, Makoun, Song, Eto'o - failed to prevent Cameroon from enduring their worst World Cup finals in history.

Another team that was rumoured to be split was Ivory Coast, although their displays revealed few fractures - save for the one to Didier Drogba's elbow that prevented the rampaging striker from recreating his best form.

drogba_handsup_getty.jpgAlgeria's Abdelkader Ghezzal contemplates his team's Group C defeat to USA (Picture: Getty Images)

Throwing Drogba on against Portugal seemed an act of desperation.

A win there could have proved the catalyst but instead the Europeans' demolition of North Korea ended their dreams. As in 2006, the Elephants can blame their failure on a challenging group but some have questioned whether the belief was ever really there.

The Ivorians were one of two sides to change their coach shortly before the finals - and given the challenge of preparing unfamiliar players for the World Cup in the blink of an eye, Sven-Goran Eriksson did not do too badly.

Nor did Eriksson's fellow Swede Lars Lagerback. The Nigeria coach, despite leading a side whose preparations were chaotic (friendlies cancelled, base camp shenanigans and endless speculation about player favouritism), helped ensure the Super Eagles played better football than at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola in January.

"Usually when I play for my country, it's not [so] organised," said midfielder Dickson Etuhu. "We didn't go out there to just play, we actually had a game plan. For the first time in a long time, you could see that we had some sort of coaching."

It is a bewildering statement that raises the question of what exactly was going on before - perhaps paving the way for President Goodluck Jonathan's decision, since rescinded, to ban the national team (although goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama should have been exempt!).

Hosts South Africa also suffered from a lack of planning. Various coaches came and went in the noughties, trying in vain to implement developmental programmes that would ensure a good 2010 campaign. Instead, when I asked an official in 2008 when we may see the fruits of Safa's youth policy, he replied - with a strange look of satisfaction - "2012".

In the immediate run-up to the tournament, South Africa did all it could but it was too little too late. After Bafana Bafana were seemingly paralysed by fear against Uruguay, the game was up, even if they did finish on a high note with victory over the French.

Nonetheless, they still became the first World Cup hosts to miss out on the second phase - which seems an apt barometer of Africa's failings in 2010, the shining Black Stars apart.

But there is one dollop of fortune heading African football's way - the rescheduling of the Nations Cup from even to odd years, which means the continent should challenge in more convincing fashion at the next World Cup.


Ghana: 9/10 - could they have done any more?
Algeria: 7/10 - just being in South Africa was success.
Ivory Coast: 6/10 - exited a tough group with pride in tact.
South Africa: 6/10 - belied their low status with a fine display against the French.
Nigeria: 6/10 - almost made it through despite chaotic preparations.
Cameroon: 3/10 - a campaign best forgotten.


  • Comment number 1.

    Well written and well researched report on a continent's disappointment.

  • Comment number 2.

    Who thought that an African team could get to the semi finals, never mind win it?

    They don't have the quality. Nigeria's best generation was the one in 94 and 98, which couldn't do that. Ivory Coast, potentially the best African team, keep getting tough groups.

    There are a handful of outstanding individuals in African teams, but not enough quality throughout their sides.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great post, well written...

    I think Africans let themselves down during this tournament. They only have themselves to blame and their eyes to cry with.... Shame on AFRICA. Big SHAME on people that are in charge of managing and organizing the beautifull game called FOOTBALL in Africa (CAF, and the national federation of each country)... and some players with big EGOS.

    Big SHAME on players like SAMUEL ETO'O FILS... Eventhough he is the best striker in Cameroon, in Africa, and among the best in the World, I think he should be fired from the Cameroon National Team. He is a guy with a big EGO and does not deserve to wear the Indomitables Lions Jersey anymore. Worst skipper in the history of Cameroon Football and bad role model for the kids.

    BIG Kudos to GHANA.. You were SUPERB, MAJESTIC, FANTASTIC, and FOOTBALISTIC. You not only made Ghana proud, but the entire Africa, from North to South and from East to West. Keep up with the good work.

  • Comment number 4.

    At 3. I don't think there's any sense in blaming Eto'o for Cameroon's failure either.

    He was played on the right wing in the first game- strange place to play him.

    I thought, as a neutral, he did what he could to help Cameroon in those games but he is not superman.

    He doesn't play with players in the Cameroon national team that are as good as his team mates at Barcelona and Inter Milan. So he won't be as spectacular as he is with his club sides. All strikers need service. it seems to me that Cameroon expects Eto'o to be the star playmaker, star winger and star striker of the team, and make the team function by himself.

    Thats not realistic is it? Even Ronaldo can't do that with Portugal, Kaka can't do that with Brazil!

    So it comes back to my point about the quality needing to be better in all positions of the team, not relying on just 2 or 3 star players.

    I see the passion for African football in your post, but remember Ghana functioned well as a team. they still lacked a world class striker which would have seen them into the semi finals and perhaps further...

  • Comment number 5.

    I do not believe the African Continent is short on quality but it is all a bit spread out and there is no one team who has the strength in depth to make a serious impact.

    This said, and as the article illustrates very well, the problems in African football run much deeper than just a general lack of quality. The key word mentioned for me is 'stability' and in general the state of many African Nations can only be described as chaotic, not stable.

    Take South Korea as a good example. In terms of quality maybe four of the six African teams have the edge but South Korea are a shining example of how far being well drilled and working for each other can get you and they played some entertaining football along with it.

    This World Cup has shown everyone the problems that are facing African football, the hard bit will now be to put systems in place to try and address these issues. Judging by the reaction in Nigeria, a rational and constructive reaction may well be out of the question.

    It is a great shame for a continent with a huge love of football that has masses of potential in the sport. The players certainly need to take their share of responsibility and this World Cup has left me questioning the loyalty of some top African players to their nations plight.

    It is always a bad thing to place too much power in the hands of the players but with many of the respective associations lacking a cohesive management team incidence of in-fighting and discontent will always emerge.

  • Comment number 6.

    Interesting read.

    For what it's worth my point of view was that Ghana obviously did the best of the african nations, but i think they've received way too much credit - yes they were unlucky to go out on penalties and in the last minute of extra time shenanigans, but in 5 games they scored just 5 goals. Their win over Serbia, was 1-0 thanks to an 85th minute penalty, Australia was a 1-1 draw thanks to a penalty (ok kewell hand-balled on the line), and they only beat usa 2-1 after extra time. It's not like they completely out-played other teams - yes they did better than expected but so did Japan and Paraguay and they've had no-where near the praise Ghana have.

    And then onto you're other marks, 6/10 for Ivory Coast - exited a tough group with pride intact? Really?? They and Portugal both played very negatively against each other when it was pretty obvious they were both going head to head for qualification behind brazil, and they were well beaten by brazil despite blatant, discraceful and unpunished cheating from Keita in order to get Kaka sent off - that is not what i call pride!

    Nigeria again were pretty shambolic, but could easily have gotten something out of all 3 games if only they'd have gone for it more, and had their idiotic player kept his temper against Greece.

    Cameroon playing their star striker as a right winger was just lunacy.

  • Comment number 7.

    What went wrong for African teams will be a matter of conjecture for years to come. It's a lazy assumption to have that they lack tactical astuteness. What I feel has let them down is the absence of strong infrastructures at home which force their best talents to seek employment abroad. Imagine if the Africans had leagues which could rival those of Europe and South America? More players at home would increase team unity and maybe allow them to finally overcome that quarter-final hurdle at future World Cups...

  • Comment number 8.

    #4 I am not blaming Eto'o for his positioning on the field (Paul Le Guen is to blame for that)... Am blaming Eto'o for his lack of patriotism. Because of his EGO, the Cameroon team was disorganized in the dressing room.

  • Comment number 9.

    To BBC, after all these articles about how great African football is (I noticed a whole sports section dedicated 'African Football') can we not have more coverage of Asian/North-South American/Australiasian football, who, however much you may wish to disagree, are streets ahead of any African side.

  • Comment number 10.

    Well informed piece Piers. The differences between the various African sides' preparations probably show up the real flaws in many of their respective administrative structures.

    Results on the whole were a bit disappointing given the anticipation of marked African success but I think only the Ivory Coast really had the players to mount a serious challenge and they floundered in a tough group. Ghana certainly restored a lot of credit to the continents' game and were a 'missed' penaly away from re-writing history!

  • Comment number 11.

    Asia and Africa have a long long long way to go to catch up with South America and Europe.

    If any team gets to the final other than a European team or a South American team, I expect it will be the USA. In about 12 years time.

  • Comment number 12.

    Firstly, I congratulate the Ghanian FA for their planning and vision of their football. Nuturing genuining U20s to world cup success, succesfully integrating them into the senior side and almost doing what germany did, take a young side to the semis.

    Ghana get praise because they are a young team ( the youngest at the wc), they're nowhere near their peak. And guess what they have been consistent for the past four years and will improve. Japan must spend FAR FAR more on their football team than Ghana, so you need to put that into perspective.

    As for the rest of Africa, not good enough.

    Nigeria has a population of 140M, they all love football over there. How is it they cannot produce enough quality players. The likes of Shittu, Youseff even Yobo will take you nowhere. They must produce better quality players. Why is it Ghana U20s make progress into not only european football clubs but their senior side, whilst the Nigerians disspear. Having genuine players in the youth tournaments seemed to be the difference between Ghana and Nigeria. Sorry had to be said.

    Cameroon never had enough quality around Eto'o. What could he have done different. He doesn't get any decent service, and the defence has been a joke. Assou Ekotto makes the same mistakes for Cameroon as he does with Spurs. Cameroon currently can only produce combatitive midfielders. DO NOT let the likes of the premier league/ english football dictate the players you produce, (big tall players). Cameroon need creative players and it looks like there are none to be seen.

    Ivory Coast had a very talented team which is coming to its end. Sadly it has been wasted by poor coaching. The likes of Henri Michel could never produce even a decent defence. Sven helped them this time round and the injury to Drogba was unlucky.

    Overall organisation and vision is lacking. Remember many european teams like England, France have their own problems with a lack of vision. But in Africa goverments have bigger problems than football, so compared to their many rivals do not have the financial firepower to fully support their teams.

    As a purist, I don't want African teams to lose their traditional attacking style and passing games. Take less examples from the likes of england and the premier league and focus on producing technical players who can pass. Ghana may have the serb as the boss who has given them a real disclipline, but they are still technically, competent don't lose that.

    I believe only when the African Nations Cup hosts great quality football will we see the competiveness get to the level needed to really threaten the likes Brazil, Spain, Italy and even Portugal. Egypt have a great playing style, its the best in Africa but they too are being held back by lack of quality opposition in the African Nations Cup.

  • Comment number 13.

    Ghana could not go beyond the 1/4 finals because they did not have a top striker to partner with Gyan. Gyan was a lone ranger most of the time and this is what cost Ghana the semifinal place. Ghana needs to find someone to play alongside Gyan, someone with a nose for goals. Just look at Spain they had Pedro and Villa upfront yesterday and the Germany defense was dancing to their tune. How do you play with only one striker upfront and expect to reach the semifinals. Gyan was over worked. As for the other African teams they just failed and nothing else. When you qualify for the world cup you have to face any team be it Brazil, Spain, Holland or Germany it does not matter. Ivory Coast must stop depending on one person, for it does not work that way. South Africa was just not good enough. Tunisia must learn to groom their own players instead of relying on rejects from France. As for Cameroon I think they have been living on past glory since 1990 and they thought everything will come by itself, but I hope they now have come to terms with reality. How I wish Egypt had qualified instead of some these African teams that were in SA. What a shame

  • Comment number 14.

    #17 "Nigeria has a population of 140M, they all love football over there. How is it they cannot produce enough quality players".

    I do not know mate..... Maybe you should ask the Chinese------ China has a population of 1 Billion, they all love football over there. How is it they cannot produce enough quality players...

    Uruguay has a population of 3 Million, they all love football over there, and they do produce quality players.

    Therefore, the size of the population is not proportional to the quality of the players. The solution is somewhere else....

  • Comment number 15.

    People have blamed the lack of consistent quality throughout the African teams' squads for their failures, but can anyone truly deny the same is true of Uruguay? They have two star players in Forlan and Suarez and then others who most would argue are nowhere near on the same level of ability. And yet they have performed phenomenally well in these tournaments. For example, if you compared the Ivory Coast's squad for this tournament with that of Uruguay, you would have to say the African team's is superior in terms of star talent. So clearly their failure to progress further than the group stage this time around must have something to do with their preparation.

  • Comment number 16.

    From a Brazilian standpoint, I think most African sides possess plenty of skill, but lack composure and concentration. So, even if say Uruguay has just as many star players, they don’t share the somewhat naïve approach that African nations take; an Uruguayan player is much less prone to miss a pass or make a mistake when under pressure.

    I think it’s just something the African nations need to go through and their game will progress in due time.

  • Comment number 17.

    Are You Kidding me?
    You thimk algeria exceeded expectattions? what expectations?
    they didn't score one goal, and drew a ,atch against a pathetic english side , if algeria had one decent striker they would have destroyed them.
    and u think algeria played better than the ivory coast and south africa?
    u make me laugh man, but not surprised u have been biased to algeria in ur past posts also during the egypt vs algeria thing. without even knowing all the facts.
    cheers mate :D

  • Comment number 18.

    Good article. Well researched and written. Particularly painful for Cameroon recording their worst result at the world cup ever.

    You got Emana right, but it is a lot more than him. Eto'o is mischief in person, then Emana and Song Alexandre pushed to the forefront by the devil himself, Rigobert Song, who has lost form and speed, but wants to be the king. Rigobert is being assisted by Kameni and Geremi. Most of the others are just frustrated by-standers except the coach, who became a party in the mess and could not deliver as a technician.

    African teams except Ghana show little understanding for the technical details of the game. Poor concerntration and failure to implement the tactics of the coach. It would get better, but a lot of work is necessary today.

    Cameroon, my country, as somebody aid has been relyig heavily on past glories. Our goal should be to get into the second round because 1990 was an exception. We could agree about that today.

  • Comment number 19.

    "Nigeria has a population of 140M, they all love football over there. How is it they cannot produce enough quality players".

    I do not know mate..... Maybe you should ask the Chinese------ China has a population of 1 Billion, they all love football over there. How is it they cannot produce enough quality players..."

    Ha ha, this was too funny to ignore. Nice job Al.

    The problem with African football is mostly management. Sack all the bums running football in Africa- Issa Hayatou in CAF and his cronies in the various derelict federations and bring in former players who will do a good job turning it around.

    Secondly, players like Yakubu, Utaka, R. Song have to learn to call it quits or be forced to do it at some point(management failure here). Time for REAL AGE TESTING has never being more important than now.

    I don't know how you can solve the ego problem. I think we are more at their mercy at the moment( You, Mr Eto'o Fils fits perfectly here).

  • Comment number 20.


    Ghana may have only scored 5 goals in 5 games but this was not for lack of trying. According to Sky Sports stats up until before the semis Ghana had the most shots (101) and Gyan had the most shot for an individual (33).

    However on the other hand Ghana only conceded 4 goals (1 v Australia after a bad goalkeeping mistake from a free kick, 1 v Germany a wonder strike after good build up play, 1 a penalty and the other a free kick). That is 3 out of 4 goals from a set piece.

    In essence Ghana do need a striker to improve. Hopefully Adiya can develop into a world class striker and maybe Barotelli will decide to play for Ghana instead of Italy.

    As for the other team Ivory Coast have been unlucky. If they were in the same group a some of the other African teams they would have been favourites to go through.

    South Africa were always up against it due to their lowly ranking, Algeria were poor. I still do not understand why Algeria and Egypt had the play off when surely on the head to head Egypt go through on the away goal. (Algeria beat Egypt 3-1 in Algeria then Egypt beat Algeria 2-0 in Egypt). Egypt would have put on a much better showing than the majority of the African teams.

    The Cameroon coach made some iffy decisions and if the players can not put there differences behind them for a world cup they deserve what they got. No points. Nigeria could have done better but discipline against Greece cost them.

    it will take a long time for more than 1 African team to progress from the group stages in a world cup and make a real impact.

  • Comment number 21.

    Good blog, I was out in South Africa with my son to support Cameroon and it was an almost unmitigated disaster from a supporters point of view, though it has to be said that the performance if not the result against Denmark was on the whole good, the other two performances were totally embarrassing.

    John Barnes doing his pundit bit on South African TV was continually being asked about the performance of the African teams and he always started by saying what really disappointed him was Cameroon as they had enough talent to really make an impact, and it is certainly true that on paper it was a very strong squad (far more so than the English media darlings the Ivory Coast) but unfortunately eleven talented individuals do not a team make.

    Cameroon can name a team full of experience at top end of the strongest leagues in Europe and plenty of Champions League experience as well, they have two outstanding players in Eto'o and Alex Song but the game was up before the first group match began as Alex Song was excluded in favour of an untried teenager at competitive international level, Joel Matip, a youngster with fantastic future potential but clearly unready at this point in his career.

    That exclusion was as Alex Song revealed in an interview after the Denmark game due to an approach he made before the finals to the coach about the attitude and conduct of his captain, Eto'o. This was a team fatally split before the tournament even began with all the parties now trying to convince anyone who will listen that they were in the right and acting only in the interest of the team, unfortunately as the push each other to shut the stable door the horse is long gone.

  • Comment number 22.

    For the first time at a World Cup, Africa had six representatives - Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, South Africa.

    Whether world governing body Fifa will maintain that tally for the 2014 finals in Brazil is debatable after all but one of the sides disappointed in South Africa.

    Both Africa and Europe had only 20% of their teams in the round of 16.

    My team ratings:
    Cameroon - 3/10
    England - 4/10

    So what's the debate about?

  • Comment number 23.

    Enjoyed your comments. Since the CAF has gone to an odd year cycle for the CAN, could you explain how they will handle classification for the CAN in 2012 (already underway), the CAN in Libya in 2013 and the World Cup in 2014? It would seem too congested to organize full qualification tournaments.

  • Comment number 24.

    Post #13, Ghana had backed up striker Adiyah whose goal was parried by Suarez. The Manager/coach had a defensive attitude or pack the midfield, who could not score. Ghana deserved to be among the last 4 had it not been for the cheat, did I see FIFAs fair play Banner?

    Africa deserve the 6 places or at least 5. How many teams come from Europe and how many had even or 4 points? France, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia or Serbia? These 8 teams are more than the total number of African places yet the failed to make it past the group stages as 5 African teams out of 6. France and Serbia all lost conviencely against African teams.

    Yes smiled and told Fabiano that he handled the ball before the gaol against Ivory Coast yet allowed it to stand. It was a goal yet Suarez who was standing beyond the line parried it back after his fellow played failed to punch the ball.

    Africa will bounce back stronger and better come 2014

  • Comment number 25.

    It's pretty difficult not to concur with most of what you have written! That said, would it be an stretch of the imagination to propose that teams like England, France,Italy and a few others were not too sharp in terms of their preparations as well as team selections? Surely if this can happen to giants of the game then it does not surprise me that African countries can get it wrong!

    As for the teams from Africa I would hazard a guess that the number of negative factors that could be highlighted are many and to go into that would require a complete article in itself!

    Thanks for an insightful piece, it is just a pity that no one [Read African administrators] will take cognisance of these obvious deficiencies and general lack of knowledge to get new and efficient structures in place to ensure renewed successes in future world cups!

  • Comment number 26.

    I also think you have to take into consideration the fact that Ghana, Ivory Coast and South Africa all finished the group stage on 4 points, and yet Ghana were the only team to go through because the other scores in their group worked in their favour.

  • Comment number 27.

    Good blog Piers.

    African teams played robust football. They looked tough, ran well, created chances, took great shots at the goal but failed to find the net. Many of their thundering efforts either hit the cross bar or the goal posts. Have a look at the 17 games the Africans played and count the number of times the ball hitting the metal work !

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 28.

    South Africa fluked a win against France in a game they normally would never have won, they can thank the chaos in the French squad for that win.

    Nigeria were decent against Argentina, but in the other games tactical discipline was severely lacking, the other results in the group meant that they still had a chance until late in the third game.

    Algeria lacked punch and were ultimately too weak to do anything, the draw against England was courtesy of England's abysmal play.

    Ghana survived the group stage by the skin of their teeth, if Serbia had scored an equalizer against Australia it would have meant no African teams in the second round. And both Ghana's goals in group stage were penalties.

    Cameroon's coach made a crazy lineup in their first game, and the subsequent defeat effecively eliminated them. Though in the other games they never looked capable of winning.

    Ivory Coast foolishly played for a draw against Portugal which ultimately cost them a place in the second round.

    Ghana nearly stumbled through to the semi finals but as Piers states, let's not let that deceive us into thinking all was well. The usual lack of tactical discipline, the crazy decisions to replace coaches at the 11th hour (Nigeria, Ivory Coast) are all reasons why.

    But the #1 reason for the structural failing of African football has to be corruption, I don't believe there is a more important reason. For well over a decade now, FIFA has been shovelling money to all football associations so they can use it to build infrastructure, hire coaches, develop a youth setup. But in many, if not nearly all, African countries, hardly anything has been done. Where's the money gone? Maybe someone can check Swiss bank accounts of certain domestic FA officials. We do know that, few exceptions duly noted, the money was not used to build infrastructure or set up youth leagues and all that.

    But Blatter will get 'reelected', and you can bet that the domestic FA officials I mentioned will all vote for him. You may take one guess why.

  • Comment number 29.

    Best Blog that I have read on this site.

    One thing I would like to add that surely works against the African nations, the farming up and nationalising of young Africans by European clubs. Also the 'persuasion' by club teams for their African players to retire from International football.

  • Comment number 30.

    15. At 7:46pm on 08 Jul 2010, skip_james wrote:
    People have blamed the lack of consistent quality throughout the African teams' squads for their failures, but can anyone truly deny the same is true of Uruguay? They have two star players in Forlan and Suarez and then others who most would argue are nowhere near on the same level of ability. And yet they have performed phenomenally well in these tournaments. For example, if you compared the Ivory Coast's squad for this tournament with that of Uruguay, you would have to say the African team's is superior in terms of star talent. So clearly their failure to progress further than the group stage this time around must have something to do with their preparation

    Uruguay's squad-
    The keeper plays for Lazio in Italy ; they had defenders who play for FC Porto, Benfica, Juventus and Villarreal. The midfield has players with Napoli, FC Porto, Ajax, Monaco, Valencia. In the forwards, Uruguay has players with Palermo, Ajax and Atletico Madrid.

    Ivory Coast's squad-
    Take out Drogba, Kalou and the Toure brothers. The No 1 keeper plays for Lokeren in Belgium. Defenders from Valenciennes, Wigan and Hibernian. Midfield from Sevilla, Twente, Monaco, FC Arges, forwards from Lille and Portsmouth.

    If you look at the standard of the clubs throughout the squad that the players represent, I'd argue Uruguay represents a stronger squad than Ivory Coast. I would not say the quality throughout the squad is the same aside from 4 famous players, this is the issue and IC is one of the strongest African nations!

  • Comment number 31.

    If anyone is interested, I have written two blogs on African World Cup teams. These can be found at and


  • Comment number 32.

    Am not suprised but disappointed by the Africans perfomances but Ghana.
    Cameroon did not put their house in order leading to their failure,Ivory Coast were just unlucky to be in a group like that it could be any of the other 3 that would have join North Korea out of the WC afterall.Algeria were not very good so much was not expected of them from the start so is S.A.Nigeria to be honest are a spent force just basking on past glory.They could have döe better if their admnistrative side have wise up by encouraging the promotion of the 2008 Olympic team to execute the WC qualifier for them.The team has been together with their coach Samson Siasia from 2005,I bet they could have done better Ghana.

  • Comment number 33.

    @ English-Players-Dont-Dive,if producing good football team is hinged on population as you postulated here, then we should expect China and India to be the giants in soccer.Uruguay is a country of about 3 million people yet they are in the semi final and may possibly clinch 3rd position. Cameroon, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Algeria failed for lack of adequate preparations. Nigeria's case is worse because of corruption in their FA. For South Africa who had adequate preparations so to say but failed to impress maybe due to the fact that, that country lacks quality players. And for Ghana, I dont want to rejoice over their performance. Senegal was more promising in 2002 but since died prematurely. Senegal cannot even qualify for Nations cup, it is sad! Ghana had all it takes to be in the final of this world cup but lost it due to what I call egos and inability to sustain progress! This is a common feature of all supposed good African teams.

  • Comment number 34.

    2. At 4:50pm on 08 Jul 2010, Subterranean wrote:
    "Who thought that an African team could get to the semi finals, never mind win it?

    They don't have the quality."

    To be fair, I think they have the quality to score a penalty. If Gyan had of scored that then there would have been an African side in the semis. But no they would not have got past Holland anyway. I agree most African sides are inept.

  • Comment number 35.

    Your blog is spot on. In Africa there appears to be no concept of planning. In the place of planning the Soccer Mandarins rely on calling up, at the last possible hour, big name players from the European leagues (drogba, Et'o, etc) and the quote attributed to JJ Okocha is a very accurate representation of the mind set of the mandarins. Finally to the mix of the big name egos is added a big name coach (Erikson). This disparate group of men is then expected to beat the slick, swift, and eloquent TEAMS from the Iberian peninsular and/or south America. Believe you me this formula has been tried time and time again with the same poor outcome. I think it was Einstein who defined madness as the process of repeating endlessly the same sequence of activities using the same ingredients and expecting different outcomes. On that basis the Soccer mandarins in Africa are mad, and all logical thinking football fans should not expect an African semi-finalist anytime soon.

  • Comment number 36.

    Subterranean, how about a comparison with Cameroon:

    Kameni (Espanyol)
    Chedjou (Lille)
    Nkoulou (Monaco)
    Bassong (Spurs)
    Ekotto (Spurs)
    A Song (Arsenal)
    Mbia (Marseille)
    Makoun (Lyon)
    Enoh (Ajax)
    Eto'o (Inter)
    Choupo-Moting (Nuremburg)

    and they could always introduce young talents such as Matip (Schalke 04) from the bench.

    Eight of the twelve above will play Champions League football in the up-coming season.

  • Comment number 37.

    @ Name Optional... Big names do not play football... Look at the France and the England teams.

    The keys for success are: Good organization, discipline, and planning.

  • Comment number 38.

    re: 22,

    "Both Africa and Europe had only 20% of their teams in the round of 16."

    And Europe has two teams in the final. The debate seems to be about whether Africa "underachieved" and if so, why. Why mention Europe? Do you want to compare Africa's and Europe's performances at the Cup based on percetage of teams that advanced from Group stages? Why not try a percentage of teams that advanced from the quarter finals, which is zero in Africa's case and 100 per cent in Europe's case? How about a head-to-head record with Europe, which from Africa's point of view is W1 D1 L5?

    I think the title really says it all: familiar mistakes. What I do not understand is why more was expected of the African teams. The signs were all there. I would agree with the article, except for the team rating. If Ghana has 9/10, has Germany got 13/10 and Spain 17/10? Or is Spain at 6/10 because they have really not been on the top of their game and thus have not realised their full potential?

    My rating would be that Ghana have been rather good and entertaining to watch, despite having trouble scoring. The rest of Africa have been poor, and sometimes frightfully boring. Algeria was more inept than Greece, to whom Nigeria even lost. Cameroon didn't seem able to know where to kick the ball. Ivory Coast were totally negative, and if you really need to field a striker with a broken arm, you know you are desperate. South Africa have achieved one insignificant victory over a side so bad their president is asking questions about it.

    Nothing can justify keeping this many teams from Africa at the WC. They should have to play for that sixth place, preferably with a team from South or North America. Or Europe. Let's see Algeria or Cameroon play for their World Cup place against, say, Russia, or Sweden, or Ireland.

  • Comment number 39.

    This seems an almost fair analysis of the African teams in this year's World Cup competition, with Ghana and Algeria given credit for their preparedness and their efforts.

    The only bit that Pirs got wrong was in being deluded into thinking that Egypt would have made a better showing....They would not have. Had Pirs bothered to review the events of the World Cup qualifiers between Algeria's Fennecs and Egypt's Pharaohs, he woukd have known that the match in Cairo in November would and should have been won by the Fennecs as they were already ahead on points at the time...With three key players injured the day before that match and with Fifa's insistance that the match must be played, the Fennecs were certainly not at their physical or psycholigical best, but played with courage and heart, and in pain. Egypt's win-if one can call it that-brought them level in qualifying points, thus the necessity for the play-off match in Khartoum-which the Fennecs won.

    Ghana showed its tremendous abilities in the African National Cup, just barely loosing the Cup to Egypt. It was not surprising to see their advance in the World Cup.

    Algeria showed its true strength in the World Cup, and had the Fennecs not been saddled by injuries of multiple players for the previous six months, there is little doubt that the outcome could have been far different. The game with Slovenia was the first time in months that the core of the team were able to be on the pitch. Too bad one goalkeeper literally dropped the ball! (That he was Saadane's first choice was the the fly in the ointment for the was a bad choice!) Despite that heartbreak, that match and the following two were exciting and showed the talents of the Fennecs-particularly those of Madjid Bougherra a multitalented player and of Rais M'bolhi the true star goalkeeper. With the core back and healthy and with a 'keepr's Keeper, coupled with the younger and talented players recently added to the squad, the Fennecs have the chance to be a force to be reckoned with.

    No doubt both Algeria and Ghana will be back on the World Cup stage come 2014. They will hopefully be the African teams to finally dispel the myth of African footballers being third rate.

  • Comment number 40.

    I was bitterly disapointed with the display by Ghana's forwards. The rest of the team were well organised, passed the ball around well and played some good football (especially Annan - what a fantastic player!!), whereas the front players were incapable of holding onto the ball, tried to shoot from very optimistic distances and the only instance I can remember of a successfull pass from the Ghana forwards, was when a wayward shot was picked up by the corner flag by his team mate. In the very first game a Ghana forward took the ball from the kick off and tried to dribble through the opposing team. Schoolboy stuff! (almost as poor as some of the England players) - Come on Ghana! you can do a lot better by playing forwards who have a brain!

  • Comment number 41.


    When Slovenia/Serbia/Swwitzerland and perhaps Denmark even, have to play a qualifier to justify the spots they squander at the world cup perhaps we'll ask African teams to do thesame. Sweden/Irelend and the other also rans you mentioned do not deserve to attend if they cannot qualify amongst peers.

    Lets not pretend that an African team wasn't bound for the semi's bar a cheating hand combined with a stroke of ill fortune.

    If 100% of European teams progressed beyond the quaters its the least I would expect considering the amount of Money Europeans pump into the game. Yet with that if all Europe can guaruntee is a percentage of progression from the the last 16 on par with underfunded Africa, it raises many questions for other football associations.

  • Comment number 42.

    Algeria was marred with indiscipline.We saw that in the last African nations cup.We saw the number of cards as a result of there indiscipline.
    Cameroon was a total disgrace.And the FA did not utter a word to the public.
    Nigeria is a shame.Most Nigerians in Sierra Leone wept due to the dismal performance.
    Ghana blew it up as a result of anxiety that GWAN fellow.
    Ivory Coast lost focus this is the normal attitude of the African.
    Finally, in Africa we are full of the blame game.Deffirent comments from different angles God save mother Africa.

  • Comment number 43.

    Interesting commentary, but do you really need to mis-label the unmistakable Didier Drogba?

  • Comment number 44.

    Interesting piece. It may be useful for the likes of Jay Jay Okocha and those who would like to be heard to take advantage of our own concerns from an academic standpoint. See this call for papers and ask Okocha to get in touch for an executive interview

  • Comment number 45.

    @22, 38, 41:

    The argument is on why FIFA should not reduce the number of African teams in the next world as implied by Piers in his first paragraphs.

    Agreed that Africa performed poorly, Europe also performed poorly by proportion even though they won eventually. Each team is representing a country and not a continent.

    Is he saying that FIFA should transfer some slots from Europe to South America considering that they each registered 20% and 100% respectively in the round of 16.

  • Comment number 46.

    It is so wrong to say this was a 'Home game' for the African countries that participated. It is like saying it is a home game for England in a World Cup hosted in Norway or Switzerland simply because both are in Europe. This was in no way an 'African world cup'. It was hosted in SOUTH AFRICA.

    I feel this is deliberate misinformation especially it coming from you Edward Piers. You should know better - having lived and worked in Africa for several years. You know the distance from Ghana to South Africa for instance, and that fans have to apply for visas to go to South Africa. It's easier for European fans to obtain visas to South Africa than African fans to.

    I'm sure there were far more England fans watching England games on the stadium than Nigerian fans watching Nigerian games.

  • Comment number 47.

    re 41:

    "When Slovenia/Serbia/Swwitzerland and perhaps Denmark even, have to play a qualifier to justify the spots they squander at the world cup perhaps we'll ask African teams to do thesame."

    Yes, why not. Lets have Slovenia play for their World Cup spot against Algeria and Denmark against Cameroon. I happen to have a feeling how that would turn up... And Switzerland could play Nigeria and Serbia South Africa. I would bet you half of my yearly wages that none of those four African teams would then go to the World Cup this year.

    I don't really care if Europe is made to play for two or four or six of their spots at the Cup, provided all the other federations do the same. That is, of course, something the African federation would oppose, and we know why. Much fewer African teams would make the cut.

    I wish people would stop moaning about the handball that denied Ghana. It was not "cheating". It was spotted by the referee and duly punished according to the rules. It is not the ref's fault that Gyan missed the resulting penalty. It is not the ref's fault that Ghana lost the shoot-out, where Uruguay had to do without Suarez, who would have surely been one of the takers. Ghana were not "rebbed". They lost in accordance with the rules of the game. They were good and entertaining and sometimes even heroic, but, ultimately, they have just not been good enough.

  • Comment number 48.

    A typical article from a BBC writer, supported only by quotations that seem to lend weight to preconceived ideas.

    Before taking comments from people like Jay-Jay Okocha, his contribution to Nigeria's failure to make the 2006 World Cup should not be forgotten. His unpatriotic attitude meant he shied away from playing in unfancied places in Africa during the qualifying matches, leading to Angola going through on head-to-head results.

    The simple fact is that Africa will not make any inroad into the World Cup until there is an improvement in the political and economic (especially economic) environment. Football is no longer a party; it is big business and countries make strategic plans to succeed in it. Only a fool will expect Africa, with all its problems, to shine in the World Cup wherever it is held.

  • Comment number 49.

    re 48:

    "The simple fact is that Africa will not make any inroad into the World Cup until there is an improvement in the political and economic (especially economic) environment. Football is no longer a party; it is big business and countries make strategic plans to succeed in it. Only a fool will expect Africa, with all its problems, to shine in the World Cup wherever it is held."

    True. Look at South Korea and Japan: the determination on all levels of society meant that they have become very decent international sides during this decade, ones that are expected to deliver results and entertainment rather than disappointment and failure. It can be done, but it requires organised effort, planning and resources, which, sadly, most African countries seem to be lacking. And it won`t be solved by having a lot of teams from Africa play at the World Cup.

    South Korea and Japan were given a chance to become respected footballing nations by their joint-hosted Cup. They seem to have made the most out of it. Let`s see what will South Africa make of their chance - but hopes aren`t high.

  • Comment number 50.

    Here's an interesting read on why perhaps more planning and consistency is needed for African teams:

    The author allowed me to post this here.

  • Comment number 51.

    @ 48

    "Only a fool will expect Africa, with all its problems, to shine in the World Cup wherever it is held."

    I hope shining at the world cup doesn't equate winning the world cup. African teams have been shining at the world cup probably as much as Holland/Spain (up until SA) over the last two decades. Only a fool wouldn't have noticed that.

  • Comment number 52.

    @ 49

    Credit to South korea and Japan. In fact, Japan have achieved at their 3rd/4th world cup in South Africa, what Ghana/Nigeria/Senegal did in their first. I take nothing away from the asian countries or the European nations. Bar Ghana, African teams underperformed at this world cup, hence all the criticism, however this does not change the fact that African teams have made plenty of headway over the last 20yrs. Teams take them lightly at their Peril. If they were truly inept this blog would be unneccesary, as their performance would be deemed adequate.

    South Korea and Japan were respected footballing nations before hosting the world cup. The WC was a boost for them and its too early to speculate how the tournament will benefit SA, though we know its already generated billions. Hopes need not be high but logic tells us that SA football will be amongst the reapers of this harvest.

  • Comment number 53.

    @ 47

    I'd think a little harder before risking my livelihood. Switzerland, Serbia and Denmark aren't much better than we saw, yet the African teams mentioned bar SA (who've lost a generation of players they had about 5 yrs back) are all agreed to have underperformed.

  • Comment number 54.

    Fairly measured article, but I think some perspective is needed for all the doom mongers as the knee jerk reactions of "useless" and "inept" is getting a bit predictable and lazy.

    It's clear that African teams are not where they should be considering the talent pool but also considering the lack of organisation and STABILITY in appointing coaches and support from the local FAs, it's hard to expect teams to perform like Brazil and Germany (no other teams are as consistent at each World Cup).

    All African teams bar Ghana didn't perform, though Algeria did show sporadic glimpses of good play. However Nigeria were a Yukubu missed kick from the last 16 (and the collapse against Greece was shocking), Ivory Coast in most other groups would have qualified (but their golden generation is gone) so realistically 3 teams (including Ghana) should have been in the last 16. 3 out of 16 gives a totally different perspective, doesn't it?

    Taking Ghana, my team, as an example, we did well but hav greater potential and I'm still amused at the surprise that Ghana gave Germany a good game or pushed Uruguay to the edge and really gave them a 2nd chance, when the South Americans should have been off home on July 2nd. The team conceded 4 goals (3 set pieces and an Ozil super strike) in 5 games with good football, from the youngest squad in the tournament. We really need a quality poacher/finisher to take us to the next level, such as Tony Yeboah (Adiyah and others are promising) but the ground work for 2014 is set and the experience will tell in 4 years.

    There's a lesson for African teams to be learned for "blooding" youth in big tournaments and focusing on the team (not star turns) and organsisation, which Ghana has learned in the last 4 years. The focus now, following 2010 is already on the next batch of U20s and preparing the base for the 2012 ans 2013 CAN squads, from which the 2014 squad will be built. The last 5 years have seen Ghana reach the Last 16 in its 1st World Cup, CAN 3rd place in 2008, CAN runner up 2010, World U20 Champs and Qtr Finalists in second world cup. There's no magic formula just hard work and organisation...other African nations can reach the same level, and make sure their football associations are held accountable by the fans and the media WITHOUT the influence of politicians.

  • Comment number 55.

    Interesting piece, well done. You refer several times to the preparation undertaken by some of the countries for a competition of this scale and it highlights how you can over-prepare and / or prepare in a way that doesn't benefit the players, the England squad being one of the better examples of this.

    Look at for a point on automatic qualification for Finals by previous winners that's being discussed currently.


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