African teams at 2014 World Cup: Who will crash out first?
Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire will be locking horns with some of the world’s finest teams at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but who are the players to watch.
While most of the teams have a long-standing tradition of crashing out of the international games in the first round, this year could prove pivotal for the African teams.
Côte d’Ivoire showed why, despite their inability to turn class into trophies for almost a decade, they remain the highest-rated African team. Their elimination of Senegal is taking the team, like Ghana’s, to a third successive World Cup.
The survivors from the Jean-Marc Guillou academy – Yaya and Kolo Touré, Arthur Boka, Didier Zokora and Boubacar Barry – bring a wealth of experience accumulated over a decade playing at the highest levels of the game worldwide.
Cheick Tioté, the rejuvenated Gervinho and defender Sol Bamba give this team, on paper at least, the potential to match any side in the world.
If the players can avoid the clashes of ego and temperament that have derailed them in the past, they could go a step further in Brazil and get beyond the first round.
Player to watch: Yaya Touré. This hardworking midfielder could be the catalyst for the Ivorians to make progress in Brazil. He is a world-class player but needs to play a more influential leadership role.
Prediction: Côte d’Ivoire could become the first African team to get to the semi-finals if they do not shoot themselves in the foot.
Previous success: First round in 2006 and first round in 2010.
Ghana were the most impressive of the five qualifying teams: Their 6-1 defeat of Egypt in the first-leg match rendered the second match a formality.
The team bound for Brazil will undoubtedly be even more potent as the glittering array of Ghanaian talent at coach Kwesi Appiah’s disposal makes its third successive appearance at the World Cup.
When his two centre-backs – John Boye and Jonathan Mensah – were absent due to injury from the victory over Egypt, Appiah called upon Jerry Akaminko and Rashid Sumaila, who effortlessly filled the void.
Jordan Ayew has not been able to get into the starting 11.
Kevin-Prince Boateng, who has recently had injury problems, was not missed. Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari bring a wealth of experience and provide on-the-field leadership that is invaluable to the team.
Player to watch: Asamoah Gyan. He has continued to show the form in front of goal that earned him a call up for the 2006 World Cup.
Prediction: Ghana have the potential to get to the quarter-final and be the darlings of football fans around the world again.
Previous success: Second round in 2006 and quarter-final in 2010.
Algeria are back at the World cup hoping to emulate the heroes of 1982, who shocked the football world by beating West Germany 2-1.
In the golden era of Algerian football the team won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1990.
Internal strife in the country from 1992 led them to plunge from the summit of African football. Only now are they beginning to show a return to their best.
Against Burkina Faso, they looked to be a well-organised unit. The willingness of the players to work for the good of the team helped them to negotiate two difficult ties against the Burkinabe side.
The experienced Madjid Bougherra and Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli bring class to the energetic team.
Player to watch: El Arbi Hillel Soudani. He is the new hero of Algerian football and looks destined to follow in the footsteps of Rabah Madjer and Djamel Menad. His goals have been vital in Algeria’s recent successes.
Prediction: The team is well organised, hardworking and skilful. It has potential but is not in the class of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
Previous success: First round in 1982, first round in 1986 and first round in 2010.
Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi-led revolution continues as the Eagles return to the World cup for the fourth time since their first appearance in 1994.
Keshi, who took over the coaching role following Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, is credited with rebuilding the team and leading to it to become African champions in 2013.
His policy of omitting his talented but troublesome stars has contributed to the emergence of a new generation of Nigerian players. The team, while lacking the flair of those of the past, have a more focused and determined look about them.
Still a work in progress, they have earned their respectability once again through their successes on the pitch. Striker Emmanuel Emenike, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel give Nigeria a solid spine from top to bottom.
Player to watch: Emmanuel Emenike. His ability to score goals and never-say-die attitude Epitomise the Nigerian team. His goals against Ethiopia were key in getting Nigeria through.
Prediction: Yet to hit the highs of previous teams, they will be lucky to get to the last eight.
Previous success: Second round in 1994 and 1998, first round in 2002 and 2010.
Cameroon has represented Africa at six World Cup finals but will arrive at the 2014 World cup with a side that is a far cry from the generation of 1990, who became the first African team to reach the quarter-finals.
Only the heroics of goalkeeper Charles Itandje kept the team in the match in the first leg against Tunisia, and they were able to overcome the North African side over two legs.
The ageing Samuel Eto’o and Pierre Webó lead the attack, with Jean Makoun pulling the strings in the midfield.
The lack of quality in the team means that it will find Brazil a challenging prospect.
Like with other Cameroonian teams of the past, the players may well try to impose themselves physically to make up for the average ability of the starting 11.
Player to watch: Samuel Eto’o. Even as he approaches veteran status, he remains Cameroon’s most influential player. A series of bust-ups with the football association have led to many fallings out.
Prediction: Cameroon is unlikely to progress beyond the first round owing to a lack of quality and depth.
Previous success: Quarter-finals in 1990 and first round in 1982, 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010.