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The realist in me says Africa won’t shine at the Fifa World Cup

An electronic panel shows the draw of group G with Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, and Cameroon during the main draw for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Doha, Qatar, 1 April 2022. Picture: Noushad Thekkayil/EPA

An electronic panel shows the draw of group G with Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, and Cameroon during the main draw for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Doha, Qatar, 1 April 2022. Picture: Noushad Thekkayil/EPA

Published Apr 4, 2022

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Johannesburg - The African continent has hosted the Fifa World Cup, now how about one of our countries winning the bloody thing for the first time? Wouldn’t that be grand?

An impossible dream, I hear you say. And I’d be inclined to agree. For I don’t foresee that happening any time soon, at least not in my lifetime for sure and most definitely not this year when the world’s best 32 teams gather in Qatar in November and December.

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The 2022 World Cup draw was conducted on Friday and while Africa seems to have sent its strongest five nations to represent it, there is nothing to suggest the continent should anticipate a glorious campaign by any of those.

It is a pretty sad indictment on Africa. All of Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon and Ghana are solid outfits teeming with brilliant individuals who ply their trade for some super clubs. And they’ve all got plenty of World Cup experience as countries, each of them having participated at the global showpiece on at least two occasions.

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But why is it that none of them are mentioned among the favourites to dethrone France as champions? Why is it so hard to imagine any of them being the last team standing come 18 December?

Are we just pessimists? No.

We are realists who know from experience that African countries too often shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to the World Cup.

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The best an African nation has ever done at the World Cup is reach the quarter-finals and three of the countries that did so, will be in Qatar later in the year. One wonders if Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana will be eager to at least go one better than they have before.

The question one would ask is how their current squads compare to those that reached the last eight in previous campaigns.

Does Cameroon’s Rigobert Song have at his disposal a team with the magical enthusiasm and carefree attitude of the Indomitable Lions of Roger Milla, Kana Biyik, Cyrille Makanaky et al, who dazzled at Italia 90?

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Alilou Cisse, the coach of Senegal, was a member of the Lions of Teranga who stunned holders France in the opening match of the 2002 edition in South Korea and Japan.

Can he use that experience to inspire the current lot to making it into the last four?

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Perhaps the country that have got closest to a semi-final is Ghana’s Black Stars, who missed out to Uruguay in 2010.

Can they reach those dizzy heights and more?

The fact that all these three countries regressed following those brilliant showings that took them to the quarter-finals talks to a lack of real ambition and an inability to build on prior successes.

Senegal, the current African champions, should progress from a group with the host nation, Ecuador and the Netherlands.

Cameroon must wonder just why they have drawn Brazil again (they were in the same group with them in 2014), but should be able to tough it out with both Switzerland and Serbia for second spot.

Ghana will get the chance to settle their score with Uruguay in a group that also has Portugal and South Korea. It is a group they can progress out of, although it won’t be easy.

The other two countries that will represent the continent are old horses of the World Cup, but never really shine - Morocco and Tunisia almost always go to the showpiece to add to the numbers as they hardly ever make it past the group stage.

That all five of these countries were first-round casualties the last time they participated at the World Cup, does not inspire much confidence.

@Tshiliboy

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