Saturday, November 04, 2006

Africa: 2010 World Cup is for Africa to Lose

In the history of the FIFA World Cup, perhaps the 2010 edition has the greatest significance for Africa. For the first time, the continent is scheduled to host the world's most spectacular sporting event. But importantly, the hosting comes with the huge expectation of winning the event. No African nation has won the World Cup and 2010 is seen as providing the continent with the perfect opportunity to re-write history.

Brazil is the only country to have denied the hosting continent the World Cup - in Sweden in 1958 and Korea-Japan in 2002 - hence history largely favours an African victory in 2010. The 2010 encounter has been said to be a make or break for African teams. The reality is that it will be the most demanding campaign for the continent given the high expectations associated with hosting. Some people think home advantage will be an incentive that will instil self-belief in the African campaign. The history of Africa in the World Cup is dominated by under-performances even from cou-ntries with huge potential like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Nigeria. In many cases, the lack of self-belief and a winning mentality is patently evident in African teams at the World Cup. Even against the giants, they can control matches for long periods with brilliant football but fail repeatedly and miserably to deliver the killer blow only to succumb to the easiest of sucker punches.

Playing in the competition far away from home has each time seen a number of African teams finding the going tough with smaller crowds cheering them on. Hence, they play with less easiness and reassurance. On numerous occasions, African teams have unsuccessfully relented to the psychological and outstanding team strategies which some of their opponents employ. Their advantage in games hinge on the physical strength and endurance. They adopted a 'shoot and hope' game, which most of the time is ineffective.

In 2010, Africa should win the World Cup. In case this does not happen, at least improving on the two quarter-final appearances is a must. It is no longer flattering to state that a continent so rich in world class talent has only two quarter-final appearances at the Mundial. Hosting the World Cup provides the best opportunity to change this sorry record just like South Korea did in 2002 to break Asia's quarter-final record set by North Korea in 1966. If an African team wins the World Cup in 2010, it will be the first time that the title goes outside Europe or South America. The traditional African heavyweights such as Nigeria, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Cameroon and Ghana are likely to bear the hopes of the continent come 2010. Though times constantly change, it is highly likely one of these countries stand the best chance to win the competition for Africa. They have world class players making waves in the top leagues and competitions in the world and they have the experience.

The under achievement of African teams at the World Cup is bewildering in many ways considering the number of star players from the continent. Moreover, Africa has been an acknowledged power in age-limit competitions like the Olympic, the Under-17 and Under-20. Sadly, the run-away success in top leagues and age-limit competitions by African players and teams has not been transferred to the World Cup.

A few links to some good sites:

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Andrea Rincon