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FEATURE: What are the chances of an African triumph in Brazil?

Published on: 26 March 2014

By Mninawa Ntloko

Brazilian Pele once told a starry-eyed gallery he’d had an epiphany and seen an African country finally winning the World Cup.

This moment of clairvoyance took place in Glasgow, in 1989, and he felt confident enough to even pencil in a deadline for his prediction — he said that the continent would have a world champion before the millennium ended.

Now the 73-year-old Pele may be widely regarded as the greatest football player to ever walk the planet, but his penchant for getting his size-15 foot stuck in his mouth has often proved to be his greatest shortcoming.

The Viagra salesman’s vote of confidence has now become a curse as the furthest any African country has ever gone in a World Cup is the quarterfinal stage — Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and then Ghana in 2010.

And given the continent’s overall performances in the 84-year history of the global showpiece, only a reckless gambler with very little regard for his money would bet on Pele’s prediction coming true in Brazil in 77 days’ time.

England manager Roy Hodgson also believes that African countries are due a World Cup title and have a greater chance of winning this year’s showpiece in Brazil than their European counterparts.

Hodgson believes that the South American climate will suit African countries and should go some way in aiding a maiden title for the continent.

Curiously, Hodgson doesn’t actually explain why Africa could not win the World Cup when it was held in Africa in 2010. You would think that the climate favoured the continent in South Africa four years ago and yet Ghana couldn’t get past the troublesome quarterfinal stage.

So what chance do Africa’s five representatives really have in South America in June?

It’s very difficult to say what is likely to transpire but I’ll tell you one thing, all five — Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria — will need the soccer gods to be in a very generous mood.

Ghana face what appears to be the toughest hurdle as they will have to negotiate past Germany — strong favourites to win the tournament after hosts Brazil — pretenders Portugal and the formidable US.

It’s a pity that the luck of the draw was so unkind on the Black Stars as they have a squad that many believe could reach the semifinals.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for them to prove to the world what they are about because the cynics predict that they will be back home after the group matches.

Cameroon also have some tricky pitfalls to negotiate as they are in the same group as overwhelming favourites Brazil, Mexico and Croatia.

Their World Cup adventure begins with an opening match against the tricky Mexico on June 13 and that match may well determine how things pan out for the Indomitable Lions in their remaining group games.

If the Cameroon coach, Volker Finke, is able to get them to qualify from Group A, then anything is possible.

The German-born mentor recently went as far as describing Samuel Eto’o as his nation’s best hope in Brazil and it remains to be seen if the Chelsea star will rise to the occasion in what will be his swansong at this level.

Côte d’Ivoire surely have enough firepower to get out of Group C and should be able to deal with the threat posed by Colombia, Greece and Japan. What happens after that is anyone’s guess, given the Ivorians’ nasty habit of disappointing when a lot is expected of them.

Nigeria have regained the swagger of old under coach Stephen Keshi and should progress out of a group that includes Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Iran.

Algeria complete the roster of African representatives and they have Russia, Belgium and South Korea to contend with in Group H.

The cynics have advised that the North Africans should keep their plane engine running because they will not be staying in Brazil long enough to familiarise themselves with the tourist attractions.

That Pele prediction certainly does not appear to be in danger of coming true, does it?


This article has 12 comment(s), give your comment
  • Nana Kwaku says:
    March 26, 2014 05:04 pm
    You have always said this - and u keep on failing every four years.Wait because the blackstars of Ghana will lead the African dream again. Which of these teams has the character to play at the highest level? certainly the stars of GHana.if you boast of players like gyan,asamoah,essien,boateng,ayew,muntari and you cannot win the world cup, then u do not deserve to be there!Ghana will surely triumph.
  • swagger d ginger says:
    March 26, 2014 05:06 pm
    When will an african team win the world trophy??? Dat has been my question ever sice I started watching world cup in 1998,going by d 2014 world cup groupings nigeria nd CIV has a chance to go trough but ghana, cameroun nd algeria? Hmm I reseve my comment but if ghana can qualify from dat group their confidence level will be high this may make them go all d way to d final....I wish all african teams best of luck including my darling SUPER EAGLES
  • swagger d ginger says:
    March 26, 2014 05:24 pm
    @kwaku, d ghanian players u listed are average players hope u know dat nd the african teams dat qualify for d mundial has dat character to perfom @ d world stage nd mind u ghana is d only african team dat ever made it quarter final of d world cup b4 cameroun did it in 1990, senegal also did it in 2002, there is nothing special about black stars for u to tagged them "leading hope of african football" nd remember dis same ghana cannot win any mahor trophy for d 33yrs now nd still countin, I respect all african team dat qualify for WC but don't say ghana is d best, it is not even sure dat u'll qualify from d group
  • swagger d ginger says:
    March 26, 2014 05:28 pm
    Ghana is not d first nd only african team dat ever made it to quarter final, cameroun nd senegal has done it before in 1990 nd 2002 respectively...let ghana made to semi finals b4 u'll start to make noise
  • anokwale says:
    March 26, 2014 07:38 pm
    It is likely finally time for Ivory Coast. Nigeria should get to the 16 and Ghana will need a little bit of luck.
  • Igwa says:
    March 26, 2014 08:55 pm
    Hate or love my comments but I don't give Ghana,Algeria and Cameroun chance of getting out of their groups.It's time for CIV and Nigeria to take Africa to the semis.
  • Igwa says:
    March 26, 2014 09:00 pm
    Ghana were drawn into lucky draws in the past W/Cups but now they getting what other African teams been subjected to...good luck though!
  • Igwa says:
    March 26, 2014 09:01 pm
    Why holding my comments gsn???
  • Kofi says:
    March 26, 2014 10:16 pm
    We need strong prayers to get out of this group.
  • Jalopy says:
    March 26, 2014 09:16 pm
    U guys are biased.
  • Jalopy says:
    March 26, 2014 09:14 pm
    True CIV and Nigeria stand good chance.Viv Afrique!
  • Igwa says:
    March 26, 2014 03:59 pm
    Wilfred Bonny,Yaya Toure,Didier Drogba,Eboua just to mention a few are Worlclass players ho can beat any team on their day....I say CIV and Nigeria will go all the way.