With the number of football stars that Africa has, it surely knows how to disappoint when the stakes are really high. In fact, disappointment does not entirely capture the feelings being experienced right now. With Cameroon, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and South Africa virtually out of the World Cup, African fans are angry not only at the poor performances exhibited by our so called powerhouses, but also at the indifferent approach shown by the coaches toward crucial fixtures.
African football reached its peak back in the late 90s and early years of this century when nations like Nigeria and Cameroon achieved significant success against top ranked teams in the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics.
Back then, stars like Sunday Oliseh, Patrick Mboma, Finidi George and Rigobert Song took great pleasure playing for their countries than for their clubs. The passion and rivalry present when the Super Eagles and the Indomitable Lions faced each other then was just as big if not bigger than the Arsenal v Manchester United, Real Madrid v Barcelona rivalries.
Sadly though, passion has been replaced by money.African football is now a contest between who is the highest paid and who is the flashiest player. This is the major reason why the continent continues to under-perform at the biggest stage.
As shocking as it may seem, Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen decided to experiment with his squad not during their qualifiers, but against Japan in their opening Group E fixture. Playing Eto’o in the worst position ever and opting for newbies rather than experience, it came as no surprise to me when the score board read 1-0 in favour of the Asians after 90 minutes.
Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback can also not be excused for their 1-0 loss to Argentina. I mean, you only leave your star player on the bench if his injured. Peter Odemwingie is not only responsible for Nigeria being in the World Cup, he is also the Super Eagles play-maker. It should not have taken 45 minutes for Lars to realise that Nigeria were lacking some spark in their attack.
As for the hosts, nothing great was really expected from them anyway. They might have been lucky against Mexico however, it must run out when they took on the Uruguayans because they were clearly outclassed.
Portugal’s 7-0 thrashing of Nouth Korea yesterday almost certainly means that they will progress to the second round at the expense of the continent’s greatest hope the Ivory Coast.
Ghana have been very impressive in their Group D fixture although the final game against Germany will be their true test. Even in the absence of formidable midfielder Michael Essien, the Black Stars have looked just as impressive as they did 4 years ago. At the moment, they must shoulder the burden of the millions of expectant fans across the continent and qualify for the quarters to at least restore Africa’s pride.
However hard this may seem, they are more than capable of achieving this.
Photo credit: from fabi_test05