Waiting for the Rise of Africa
No African Country has ever progressed beyond the quarterfinals of a World Cup
NVIR AJ NAIR
o Africa n country has ever prog r e s s e d b eyond the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Fou r ye a r s a go i n S out h Africa, Ghana was cruelly knocked out in the quarters by Luis Suarez’s hand and a lack of composure from the penalty spot. Yet Africa has produced several world-class stars and provided some of the World Cup’s most memorable moments. From the erstwhile Zaire’s comically bad team that lost nine zip to another former nation Yugoslavia in 1974 to veteran Cameroonian Roger Milla’s flamboyant celebration routine in the 1990 World Cup in Italy. In Brazil, Africa has its star qua l it y, but ex pect at ions aren’t high. Brazil, which has strong cultural ties with Africa dati ng back to t he 1500s, provides a platform for Africa’s best player to prove his point. badly at Arsenal, but has resurrected his career with Roma i n It a ly. Swansea’s Wilfried Bony provides another attacking option. Chiek Tiote wil l be the midfield enforcer, shielding a defence that looks leaky. The Ivoriens, despite a l l their talent, finished a disa p p oi nt i n g f i f t h i n l a s t year’s African Nations Cup, knocked out by eventual winners Nigeria. The team has failed to keep a clean sheet i n t heir past f ive i nternational fixtures, even losing 4-1 to Mexico. This is former French international Sabri Lamouchi first managerial assignment and he will have to find a way to seal Ivory Coast’s perforated defence. Di d i e r Z o kor a h a s b e e n moved to the centre of defence from midfield, and exciting youngster Serge Aurier is a fine replacement for the ageing Emmanuel Eboue. If Ivory Coast qualify, they would have to play England, Italy or Uruguay in the round of 16.
strung together impressive results but the African champions have a tough draw. It is hard to see them emerge from a group that contains one of the tournament’s favourites in Argentina, Edin Dzeko’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a defensively sound Iran team. Head coach Stephen Keshi will aim for a repeat of their strong showing at last year’s African Nations Cup, but the Super Eagles display in a 2-2 draw against Scotland in a friendly was hardly prepossessing.
Samuel Eto’o recently called his Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho a “fool” for suggesti ng t hat t he iconic 3 3 -year- old footba l ler was too old to play top level football. The world cup will provide Eto’o a platform to show Champions Leag ue club’s t hat c l a s s i s p er manent. After all, his countryman Milla lit up the world cup at the ripe old age of 38 in Italia 90 and went on to become the tournament’s oldest scorer at USA 94. While Eto’o looks to defy his critics by scoring goals, Schalke’s highly rated centre-back Joel Matip will look to shut out opponent strikers. Alex Song, who has struggled for playing time at Barcelona, is also an important player for Cameroon.