JOHANNESBURG - Will it be a case of another Fifa World Cup, another poor showing by the African continent? The opening matches of three of the five Caf representatives certainly seemed to suggest so, and the pressure is now on Tunisia and Senegal to give Africa some hope.
The Carthage Eagles take on England on Monday, while the Lions of Teranga square up to Poland on Tuesday. Both are in with a chance of getting something out of their matches. But with Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria having come a cropper in their first matches of Russia 2018, it is hard to be optimistic.
Without their talismanic Mohamed Salah, who was declared fit but was kept on the bench throughout the match, the Egyptians came unstuck against two-time champions Uruguay in Yekaterinburg on Friday. The ink on the Pharaohs’ 1-0 defeat had not dried when neighbours Morocco contrived to gift Carlos Queiroz’s Iran leadership of Group B when Aziz Bouhaddouz scored an own goal late in a match that the Atlas Lions had dominated.
A lot is always expected of Nigeria at every World Cup, and this one is no different. That they were opening their account against a Croatia side that last won their opening World Cup match way back in 1998 raised hopes of a Super Eagles success in Kaliningrad on Saturday night. But they too faltered; a first-half own goal by Oghenekaro Etebo plus a strike late in the match by Luka Modric meant Africa is yet to register a point after three matches into the tournament.
With such starts, it’s hard to see any of the five teams emulating Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana by making it to the round of 16. But stranger things have happened in this grandest of sporting tournaments, and Africa can still hope.