Wait­ing for the Rise of Africa

No African Coun­try has ever pro­gressed be­yond the quar­ter­fi­nals of a World Cup

The Economic Times - - Economy & Sports -

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.

PRE­DIC­TION:

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.

PRE­DIC­TION:

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.

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