AFRICA FALLS SHORT AGAIN AT THE WORLD CUP

While the Germans, who planned meticulously over a number of years are celebrating winning the World Cup for the fourth time, Africa is once again going over old ground of continually failing at the World Cup. Pele must wish he never made the prediction that an African team would win the world cup before the

While the Germans, who planned meticulously over a number of years are celebrating winning the World Cup for the fourth time, Africa is once again going over old ground of continually failing at the World Cup.

Pele must wish he never made the prediction that an African team would win the world cup before the turn of the 20th century. The talent has always been there in Africa but the discipline, lack of planning and corruption of officials will continue to be the bane of success.

Out of the five African teams that came to the World Cup, Cameroon were the worst.  Before they even set foot in Brazil, the issue of bonuses had already reared its ugly head and the players threatened they would not board the plane to Brazil unless they were paid their dues. Cameroon has been on a downward slope since they reached the quarter final of the World Cup in 1990 with the likes of Roger Milla, Thomas Nkono and the Biyik brothers. Shamefully they have only won one game at the World Cup since, despite holding the record of most appearances at the World Cup.

What is even more baffling is that the president of CAF since 1986 Issa Hayatou comes from Cameroon! The state of their pitches is nothing to write home as well, despite the continuous receipt of funds from FIFA.

Algeria has nothing to be ashamed about as they managed to reach the second round, despite being in a tough group with Belgium, Russia and Korea. They played very good football and but for poor finishing and the brilliance of the German keeper Manuel Neuer, they would have qualified for the quarter final. It should be noted though that during the extra time of this game, the North Africans tired and several of their players went down with cramp, compared to the Germans who kept going and eventually broke Algeria down. All in all though, they gave a good account of themselves and can build on their success.

Ivory Coast often referred to as the “Golden Generation” found themselves in a relatively easy group, from which they should have qualified easily. However they made a complete dog’s dinner of it. This team constituted a lot of egos that simply did not play as a team. Against Greece, when a draw would have been good enough to take them through to the knockout stage, they managed to give a penalty away in stoppage time, hence passing up on a golden opportunity to create history. The likes of Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers probably may never appear on the world stage again. They have earned themselves the tag of the wasted generation!

With Ghana, I felt before the world cup that they and possibly Nigeria could reach the semi final for the first time, but as I mentioned in the FIFA programme I did on Nigeria before the World Cup, that is with the proviso that all things go well. In the case of Ghana they clearly did not. In their first game against the USA, they conceded a goal within a minute.  Although they eventually drew level, they went to sleep again in the closing stages and gifted the Americans a goal in stoppage time due to a basic error of not having a man on the post for a corner kick.  

They set about redeeming themselves against Germany and took the game to Germans.  The game was to be Ghana’s best performance and but for some poor decisions towards the end, they could possibly have knocked Germany out of this World Cup.  When Ghana got to 2-1, Jordan Ayew should have squared the ball to Asamoah Gyan who broke his neck to get into the German box, however, the younger of the Ayew brothers was selfish and hit a shot, which was never going to go in, thus Ghana’s chance of doubling their lead disappeared in just seconds. Germany then equalized and the rest they say is history. After this game Ghana’s soap opera unraveled with the squabbling over bonuses.  Money was sent by plane from Ghana but the writing was on the wall. The energy players should have dedicated to ensuring they qualified by preparing for their last match against Portugal was wasted with the money palaver! Some may hail Kevin Prince Boateng for choosing to play for the country of his father’s birth. Looking on the other side though his brother Jerome Boateng chose to play for Germany and he is now a world champion, while KPB was squabbling over money with the Ghanaian team.

Nigeria did well by qualifying for the second round for the first time since 16 years. However they were not without their own struggles. Their game against Iran was very disappointing though in the context of things, the point turned out to be very important and crucial to their qualification.  In the second game against Bosnia, Nigeria improved and got a lucky break when Edin Dzeko’s goal was wrongly ruled offside. The prodigal son Odemwingie scored and the Super Eagles were virtually through. Ironically Nigeria’s best performances were against Argentina and France but they lost both games. They lost to the brilliance of Lionel Messi in their last group game.

Against France they held out with just ten minutes to go and then they conceded due to a lack of concentration and a mistake by Vincent Enyeama.  

Overall it has been a disappointing showing by the African teams who still have a long way to go before they can dine at the top table of world football. African countries need to pay attention to every minute detail.  Grass root football must not be ignored, good pitches, accountability of officials, proper planning in other areas will all help African football to continue to develop. What we have at the moment is a “fire brigade” approach. Teams like Germany and Spain did not stumble on success.  They had a long-term plan after years of failure. We saw the fruition four years ago and in this World Cup.
Elite coaches in Europe constantly attend seminars and training courses. African football needs to replicate this and bring their own coaches through as well so that there is a succession plan.  Jurgen Klinsmann set the ball rolling with Germany and Joachim Loew was his assistant. When Klinsmann stepped down Loew took over to continue the project and Germany won the World Cup at the second attempt. Even when African countries appoint home-based coaches they are not given time hence there is no continuity.

Ayodele Odumade
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