27 June 2014

Africa: Two African Teams Through to Knock-Out Stages in Brazil

Photo: BackpagePix
Ahmed Musa, left, seen contesting Argentina's Pablo Zabaleta for the ball, was Nigeria's hero of the match, scoring both the side's goals.

Two African teams have made it through to the knock-out stages of the FIFA World Cup. But the opening round has revealed alarming weaknesses in African soccer.

For a few brief moments, Ivory Coast's national team - Les Elephants (The Elephants) - scented victory. The match against Greece had gone into extra time and they had drawn one all against Greece. It would be enough to get them through to the second round. But then Giorgos Samaras scored a penalty after he was tripped by Ivory Coast substitute Giovanni Sio and the game ended in a 2-1 win for Greece. The streets of Abidjan, which only seconds beforehand had resounded with the sound of vuvuzelas and the chanting of jubilant fans, fell silent and were soon deserted.

Ghana's Asamoah Gyan celebrates scoring a goal with teammate John Boye during their Group G soccer match against Portugal

"I am so disappointed, I never thought we would lose against Greece," a young woman in Abidjan told DW when it was all over.

There was also disappointment in Ghana. After a weak opening match against the United States, the Black Stars showed themselves to be in lively form by drawing 2-2 with Germany, but failed to qualify in their last match against Portugal on Thursday (26.06.2014). In 2010, the Black Stars made it to the quarter finals and many pundits in Brazil had been confident they would reach the second round this time. Ernst Middendorp, who coaches Bloemfontein Celtic in South Africa, had shared this optimism."I was completely convinced that Ghana had a very good chance of qualifying," he told DW.

Ghana's president orders cash to be flown in

There were five African teams in Brazil for the start of the tournament. As well as Ghana and Ivory Coast, Cameroon also failed to qualify for the knock-out stages. This was not the only reason why Cameroon's German coach Volker Finke found himself on the receiving end of adverse media attention. There was a scuffle between teammates and the threat of a strike.

Jubiliant fans in Algiers celebrating their team's entry into the next round, but some commentators fear Algeria's success could be short-lived.

Algeria and Nigeria are now through to the next round. Middendorp said that having the two African teams in the remaining 16 was a "minimum requirement" that the continent had now satisfied.

Like Middendorp, Ghanaian sports journalist Christopher Opoku had expected more from the Black Stars. A dispute over bonus payments had evidently distracted the team and it was only resolved when the Ghanaian president ordered that $3 million ( 2.2 million euros) in cash be flown from Ghana to Brazil. But to no avail, said Opoku.

"Look, the Black Stars received a hundred thousand dollars each. We all saw how they played against the Portuguese. You would agree with me that they didn't play even a quarter as well as they did against Germany. That says it all! In terms of focus, they simply were not there," he said.

Nigerian striker Emmanuel Emenike. His team has also ecountered problems with bonus payments

An African team in the final?

Opoku said African clubs and associations need better long term planning so that such problems don't occur in the future.

He sees little hope of an African team making it through to the finals. Nigeria? "I see them losing that game to the French. It will be a surprise if they go through to the quarter finals." Opoku is equally scathing about Algeria's chances. "Only German complacency will let them through. So I am not seeing any of the African teams making it through to the finals," he said.

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