Africa’s representatives at the World Cup include Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa, Senegal and Tunisia. Here are their prospects.
Nigeria is one of the soccer power houses in Africa featuring many foreign based players. They are drawn in arguably the toughest group for the first round at the World Cup finals. The group which will be based at Busan, Korea South features favourites and former champions Argentina, England and Sweden.
After a dismal performance in Mali, the Super Eagles had to undergo radical changes that saw the replacement of Amodu Shaibu as coach.
Although the Nigerians have of late shown a tremendous improvement, the Super Eagles are suffering a period of transition.
They have many good players who are old and cannot play anymore internationally. Big names such as Arsenal’s striker Nwankwo Kanu, Austin Okocha of PSG, Taribo West and Victor lkpeba have displayed incons-istency in form.
The « old guards » who are notorious of bickering and arousing disputes over money should be placed together with young players who are looking for glory and not money.
This calls for Festus Onigbinde to give priority to players such as Pius lkedia, Victor Agali, Yobo, Yakab Arjebani and the colourful Julius Aghahowa. But no keen soccer observer can rule out the Super Eagles for they are credited for their fighting spirit and are capable of rising to the occasion and upsetting the form books. If they can contain the English men’s speed and deny them aerial balls for at least 45 minutes, they can easily beat England. For Argentina, they must play highly defensive football with ample use of counter-attack. With this, they can easily get a point from Argentina. For their match with Sweden, they need to score an early goal.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, Africa’s team of the millennium, are making their fourth consecutive appearance in the World Cup beaming with confidence. Their German tactician Wilfred Schafer has a pool of stars who play for leading clubs in Italy, England, France, Germany and Spain to choose from. Led by their flamboyant skipper, Rigobert Song, the Indomitable Lions are capable of a repeat of Italia 90 when they made World Cup history by becoming the first African team to reach the quarter-finals. After lacklustre performances in 1994 and 1998 the Indomitable Lions are going to the World Cup finals with a stock of talented players who have made marks in club football. Leading their attack in Japan-Korea will be 31-year-old Patrick Mboma and 20-year-old Samuel Etoo. Other players to watch include the man nicknamed the destroyer at African Nations Cup in Mali, Pius Ndiefi, Lauren Etame Mayer, Njeremi Njitap, Daniel Djemba, Solomon Olembe among others.
In first round group E games, Cameroon play Ireland on June 1 at Nigata, Japan and meet Germany and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabians are not considered a big threat to the Indomitable Lions while Ireland and Germany merely scrapped through the World Cup finals. They later qualifying through a play-off. Cameroon stands out as the likely team to finish top of group E and are likely to beat all the teams in the group. They are encouraged by their latest 2-2 against favourites Argentina.
The team trained by Frenchman Bruno Metsu is grouped together with their former colonial master France besides Denmark and two -time champions Uruguay for their World Cup debut. They are full of confidence after finishing second to Cameroon at the African Cup of Nations and scooping major awards at the Africa Footballer of The Year awards in South Africa last week.
The team is boosted by a host of professionals including the highly rated Lens striker and the reigning African Footballer of the Year El Hadji Diouf, his team mates at Lens, Ferdinand Coly and Pape Sarr. There is also AJ Auxerres Khalilou and Fadiga.
Senegal take on title holders France in the opening match on May 31 in Seoul.
The Lions of Teranga are physical, solid at the back and good on aerial balls and might prove to be the surprise package of group A. Their main undoing is that they need a lot of international exposure as far as the general conduct on the pitch is concerned.
Senegalese players were the most indisciplined team in the African Cup of Nations finals in Mali.
The Bafana Bafana as they are fondly referred to by their supporters are moderate even though the team has a stock of talented young players who have regular appearances at club level in Europe. The team, coached by Jomo Sono, are grouped in group B with Spain, newcomers Slovenia and Paraguay.
They will rely on their speedy Italian based striker Slyankanga Nomvete to lead their attack. Other players expected to add punch up front include the fast rising star Sibusiso Zuma, the revitalised Benni McCathy of FC Porto and Charlton Athletics’ Shaun Bartlett.
The Bafana Bafana are even stronger at the flank with German based Detron
For South Africa’s Star to shine brighter in Japan/Korea, coach Sono must blend his squad with mature players who can cope with pressure and who do not shake in the face of adversity. This might open the doors for the likes of Heiman Inkhalele, Mark Fish, John Moshoe and goalkeeper Hans Vonk.
They are in group H together with co-hosts Japan, Belgium and Russia. They have been very disappointing in their previous appearances at the finals and even this time round they are not in good form judging from their dismal performance at the Africa Cup of Nations held in February in Mali.