Sunday World (South Africa)

Fifa’s lopsided slots choke Africa

Continent’s teams getting raw deal in quadrennia­l tourney

- Xolile Mtshazo

African teams have at previous Fifa World Cup finals tournament­s managed to reach the quarterfin­al stage, but none has achieved the milestone of being in semis and eventually the final.

Looking at the history of the Fifa-organised tournament and how our motherland teams have fared since 1930, when 13 African nations took part, only three countries have reached a quarterfin­al – Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) – none has ever made it to a semifinal.

As things stand, all five African sides, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Cameroon and Ghana, have had shaky starts at the Qatar 2022 World Cup with only Morocco and Tunisia gaining a point apiece after goalless draws against Croatia and Denmark, respective­ly. It could be said these are satisfacto­ry results for north African countries.

However, for west Africans it would seem they have a steep mountain to climb after all three lost their openers. Senegal got a 2-0 thumping from the Netherland­s in a match the Lions of Teranga should have effortless­ly won. Cameroon narrowly lost 1-0 to Switzerlan­d and Ghana’s Black Stars faced the star-studded Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portuguese team, but came short after losing 3-2.

I must hasten to say as much as the five African sides drew or lost, their next opponents in the second round of the group matches are wary, and many like hosts and seemingly palookas Qatar were taught a 3-1 lesson by Senegal, in a match that was was a must win for coach Aliou Cissé and his charges. And we are looking forward to

Morocco taking the three points on the table from the Kevin De Bruyne-propelled Belgium – a side teeming with African expats, just like France – today.

It now remains to be seen whether our continenta­l representa­tives will be able to deliver a performanc­e of the same pacey display in their second group games after the three days rest.

In Russia 2018, the African

ambassador­s could not get past the first round, with teams like Senegal, touted as the continenta­l hopefuls and a team capable of making it past the quarterfin­als for the first time, and maybe the final. But…

In many quarters, this tournament has received a tag of the “finals of minnows” , “tournament of surprises” after hosts Qatar and Asian championsh­ip holders were embarrasse­d by

Equador. Then Japan and the Saudis overshadow­ed everyone by coming from behind to beat power houses Germany and Argentina, thus pulling off major shocks of Qatar 2022, so far.

Many believe the lack of World Cup experience by African countries is an indictment on Fifa itself because since the increase of the African slots at the World Cup in France 1998, and before then, only three African team took part in a continent with 54 countries, which is larger than Europe.

The bottom line is that in the history of the World Cup even the top African countries do not make it to compete at the quadrennia­l tournament and thus lack the experience and tenacity of gauging themselves against the world’s best.

Despite African teams possessing the quality to trouble even the strongest teams, they are considered outsiders to go all the way and win the 2022 World Cup. Blame it on Fifa with its lopsided number of slots that is at odds and against African football.

 ?? /Getty Images ?? Famara Diedhiou of Senegal during the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match between Qatar and Senegal.
/Getty Images Famara Diedhiou of Senegal during the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match between Qatar and Senegal.
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa