29 June 2018

Africa Mulls World Cup Defeats, Looks to the Future

Photo: CAF
Africa's five representatives to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia Tunisia, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and Egypt.

Senegal's defeat means Africa will not have any representatives in the last 16 at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Fans have been quick to voice their disappointment at their teams' performances.

Just two weeks after the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicked-off, Africa is officially out of the tournament, with all five qualifying African nations failing to make it beyond the initial group stage.

Senegal became the final African nation to be eliminated on Thursday -- and also became the first team in the competition's history to lose a match based on the so-called fair play rule, which was implemented for the first time at this tournament.

Senegal's controversial exit

Following their 1-0 defeat to Colombia, Senegal lost out to Japan who -- despite being equal in terms of points and goal difference -- managed to advance because they were only issued four yellow cards in the group stage, compared to Senegal's total of six.

It's the first time the fair play rule has been deployed in a World Cup tournament as a means of ranking teams in the case of a tiebreaker.

The Senegal team -- nicknamed the Lions of Teranga -- largely limited Colombia's chances during the match, but were outdone when Yerry Mina rose above the defense to score in the 74th minute.

Speaking at the post-match conference on Thursday, Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said he was proud of his team but "Senegal did not qualify because we did not deserve it. That is life."

Cisse also said he had no issues with the new fair play regulation, despite his team ending up on the losing end.

Frustrated fans

Fans were quick to express their anger at the outcome of the clash between Senegal and Colombia.

"In the beginning I thought Senegal would make it," one fan told DW. "But then I saw the penalty the referee didn't give. And I knew that was it. I am disappointed. Very disappointed."

"Senegal had the best opportunity to get to that level," said another fan. "The last match they played was unfortunate, they got too many yellow cards. African players still have a lot of work to do."

Nigeria disappointed with loss

Nigerian defender Leon Balogun says the Super Eagles are disappointed with their performance following their 1-2 loss to Argentina on Tuesday.

"I am still angry how we gave the chance away," he told DW. "I watched the second goal over and over again and I think we could have avoided it quite easily. Maybe we were too tired at the end of the match, but I'm sad."

Fans in Lagos have offered various explanations for their team's first-round elimination.

"The African teams didn't do well because I don't think football is more [about] physicality or much energy," a fan told DW. "They didn't apply their mentality on the pitch. Or their physicality."

Others are taking a more matter-of-fact approach: "That's how football is. Sometimes the referee or coach [is at fault]. Football is all about win or lose. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win."

Was Ramadan to blame?

Meanwhile, the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan is being blamed for Egypt's poor performance at this year's tournament.

The Egypt Football Association (EFA) president Hany Abo Rida says the squad's decision to fast during the Muslim holy month impacted team performance.

Egypt lost all three of its group-stage games to Uruguay, host country Russia and Saudi Arabia.

A brighter future ahead?

Africa's failure to progress beyond the group stage of this year's tournament has surprised many, especially as African representation continues to grow at international competitions.

So far only three African teams have ever reached the quarter-finals of a World Cup -- Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

However, with the number of African teams set to increase from five to nine in 2026 as the competition expands, African will soon have another chance to prove itself on the world stage.

Ineke Mules and Sella Oneko contributed to this report


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