Sunday, October 09, 2005

Africa keeps it interesting

To describe Africa’s representatives to next year’s World Cup as a surprise is an understatement. Ivory Coast’s emergence onto the world stage has been solidified with a new crop of talent such as Didier Drogba of Chelsea and Kolo Toure of Arsenal. But to imagine a scenario in which all but one team coming out of Africa would be a first time qualifier was far-fetched.

The African 5 for Germany 2006 are:

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast pulled off a surprise, beating out traditional powers Cameroon with an away win over Sudan. Cameroon, veterans of 6 World Cups, were held to a draw against Egypt, a game they needed to win. In fact, in Ivory Coast fans celebrated outside the Egyptian embassy in a show of appreciation for making their qualification possible. Cameroon are missing only their second finals since 1982.

The continent’s traditional powers have all crashed out, most notably South Africa ahead of hosting their first World Cup. The continents most successful international teams to date, Cameroon and Nigeria have also been eliminated from the finals. But for South Africa, you have to wonder, ahead of hosting the Cup in 2010, they fail to qualify? In my opinion, time for some introspection.

Nigeria made their finals debut in 1994. It’s their first time missing the finals since then. For Nigeria, failure to qualify is all the more surprising when you consider Angola’s team is mainly made up of local players in the domestic leagues. Only 2 or 3 players on the entire squad play outside Africa.

One Angolan player to note is striker Pedro Mantorras who plays for Benfica in Portugal. He was in every scout’s black book a few years ago until, in 2002, he suffered a devastating knee injury which cost him the better part of 2 seasons and almost ended his career. Mantorras was part of the side which won the African under-20 championship in 2001.

For Togo, clearly the lightweight of the bunch, qualification was as tense. Playing at home in Brazzaville they eventually won 3-2 against Congo but had to come from behind twice to secure the win and qualify at Senegal’s expense.

Ghana, who have always looked like qualification but failed in the past, have finally broken thru. Having players like Michael Essien at Chelsea has done a lot for their prospects but it must be said, South Africa fell apart giving Ghana little competition for a qualifying place.

Tunisia only needed a draw last night against Morocco to secure qualification. With their destiny in their own hands, Morocco failed to secure the win and qualify.

If you look at qualifying in other countries, there is no continent which could have created so much drama. In literally 90 minutes Africa’s qualification was turned on its head and football’s continental power base shifted completely.

What this means for Africa’s prospects for the World Cup is unsure. Likely, it’s going to be a recipe for crash and burn since most of these sides, while competitive on the continent, are going to be severely undermanned when it comes to the finals. Who knows though, nobody, including in Senegal, expected Senegal to beat France in the first game of the group stages and eventually advance to the quarter finals.


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Blogger Ben said...

Interesting as it is the world cup won't be the same without the like of Cameroon, Nigeria or Senegal

10/09/2005 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is bullshit..

The World Cup doesn't need any country and none of the African countries were much hyped before they were succesful. Cameroon 1990, Nigeria 1994, and Senegal 2002 as good examples. Next summer will be Ivory Coast's or Ghana's.

Stupid attitudes like yours give the chance they need.

10/09/2005 11:44 PM  

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