19 June 2018

Africa: Ft World Cup 2018 - Africa's Winless Streak Perpetuated By a Set-Piece and 90th Minute 'Curse.'

It began with the Pharaohs of Egypt. Matched up against the two-time world champions, Uruguay in a Group A clash, a match they had lost already on paper and in the eyes of many 'pragmatic' football enthusiasts. The lack of optimism originated more so because their talisman player, Mohamed Salah, was sitting this one out, working towards full recovery from his shoulder injury after his UEFA Champions League final controversial clash with Sergio Ramos.

It was a totally different story on the pitch, the Pharaohs stood from their thrones and fought for their lives. Their plan to frustrate the ferocious La Celeste's frontline of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani had been working successfully for nearly the entire match, and the Egyptian goalkeeper, El Shenawy defied gravity a couple of times, making saves that earned him the Budweiser sponsored Man of the Match Award which he turned down because of his faith. In the end, the 90th minute decided to pass a verdict on the match. Jose Maria Gimenez rose highest to head Sanchez's free-kick into the back of the net, breaking Egyptian and African hearts.

The script was a bit different and somewhat similar for the Moroccans. The Lions of the Atlas started their Group C campaign with an Arabian derby against Iran. It was a match that most people expected them to win having reached the World Cup finals with some fluid displays and conceding no goals. Six-goal thriller participants, Portugal and Spain will certainly view themselves as favorites against Morocco, hence the need for Morocco to win the Iranian match and maximize any chances of reaching the knockout stages. They indeed came motivated to the match, creating more chances, showing more intent to win and forcing a couple of saves from their opponent's goalkeeper. Again, a 90th-minute free kick decided the match. The substitute striker, Aziz Bouhaddouz, unfortunately, deflected an Iranian free-kick into his own net and handed the Iranians their first world cup win in 20-years.

The 90th-minute 'curse' was not necessary for the Croatia-Nigeria match but the set-piece curse was having none of it. Luka Modric curled a corner into the box which Mandzukic flicked before finding the unsuspecting Nigerian midfielder, Oghenekaro Etebo who finished the job for the Croatians. The second goal of the match came in the 71st minute, a penalty which Modric calmly converted, and ending any hopes for points for the Super Eagles.

As far as Africa is concerned, the task was left for Tunisia to walk the walk heading into Monday's match against England. As the commentator described it, the Three Lions flew out of their traps early in the match and found the net through their captain, Harry Kane who turned in a rebound from close range after John Stones had forced off a fine save from Hassen. Again, it was from a corner-kick, another set piece piling misery on Tunisian fans and Africans. The Carthage Eagles did bounce-back and scored Africa's first goal of the tournament through Sassi who converted from the penalty spot in the 35th minute. They seemed content with the stalemate and closed up shop, defending in numbers and trying to catch England on the break for the remainder of the match. The unfortunate and recurring theme of decisive moments in the 90th-minute occurred again when Kieran Trippier swung in another corner-kick which found its way to Harry Kane, who netted his second for the night and ended up being the winner for the English side.

Now, only Senegal remain unscathed. How will they fare against Poland in their Group H opener on Tuesday?

Africa

Super Eagles Draw 1-1 With S/Africa, Qualify for 2019 Afcon

Three -time champions Nigeria made a return to the biggest football party in Africa after being held to a 1-1 draw by… Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

Copyright © 2018 FirstTouch Africa. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.