The 2010 World Cup will for the first time see six African teams competing in this prestigeous competition. CAF has five berths allocated to it plus the host nation, South Africa, in 2010. With many of the African teams having some of the biggest names in their ranks, many expect them to be able to compete with the best teams in the world. This article previews all six of the African teams that will be competing at the World Cup in June.
South Africa – Group A
South Africa are the second-lowest ranked team at the World Cup, being ranked 85th in the World, with only North Korea ranked lower. South Africa has competed in two previous World Cups and failed to progress beyond the group stages on both occasions and, while many South Africans had hoped for the draw to be kind to them, it was almost a certainty that they would find themselves in a tough group being one of the seeded teams. The draw was unkind and they are joined by Mexico, Uruguay and France in Group A. Steven Pienaar is undoubtedly a world-class player, but South Africa do not have many more of them and most of their overseas-based players warm the benches for their respective clubs. Some of the locally-based players will definitely draw interest from European clubs and home advantage will definitely play a role for South Africa to compete favourably with these teams, but realistically speaking, they can be expected to fall short and be eliminated at the group stage.
Nigeria – Group B
Following one of the most exciting and closely contested qualifying campaigns for the 2010 World Cup, Nigeria managed to do so on a dramatic final day of qualifying. Despite this, they put in a credible performance at the 2010 African Cup of Nations where they ended third (again), and if they build on that performance they may be one of Africa’s better performers at the World Cup. Assuming that Argentina wins Group B, Nigeria faces a tough battle for the second place in the group with Greece and South Korea. They do possess a host of quality players, but a managerial change in February and their opponents in Group B may also see Nigeria eliminated from the competition before the knock-out rounds.
Algeria – Group C
World Cup qualification did not come easy for Algeria who had to go through a tie-breaker reply against the reigning African Champions Egypt after they could not be seperated from their qualifying group. This in itself may be considered as a wonderful achievement considering Egypt’s dominance of the African game in recent years and Egypt did get their revenge by beating Algeria 4-0 in the semi-final and by going on to win the title at the 2010 African Cup of Nations, which saw Algeria end forth. This may be considered as a disappointing result for Algeria, but they did eliminate a star-studded Ivory Coast outfit in the quarterfinals. Algeria may prove to be somewhat of an unknown entity at the World Cup, but having been drawn alongside the 2009 Confederations Cup runners-up and one of the tournament favourites in England, they too will in all likelihood not have enough fire power to make it through their group.
Ghana– Group D
Following the success of their national side at the 2009 under 20 World Cup, many of these youngsters were drafted into the national team that competed at the African Cup of Nations 2010. This young Ghanain team performed incredibly well and finished as runners-up to Egypt following a late goal in the final. What makes this achievement truly remarkable is that Ghana effectively used the African Cup of Nations as nothing more than preparation for the World Cup, as many of their big name players including Sulley Muntari, John Mensah, John Paintsil and Stephen Appiah were ommitted from the squad for this tournament and Michael Essien was injured. Assuming that at least some of these experienced players will return to add experience to the World Cup squad, together with any scout’s dream in terms of young talent, plus them being one of the few African teams with managerial continuity, Ghana may yet turn out to be the surprise package at the 2010 World Cup by not only advancing to the second round from a tough draw, but possibly to progress even further than that.
Cameroon – Group E
Cameroon is the highest-ranked African team at number 14 in the World and do have a host of players playing in some of the biggest leagues in the World. Having qualified for the World Cup with relative ease, a disappointing African Cup of Nations campaign has left many questioning Cameroon’s ability to compete with the World’s best. They do possess some exctingly talented players in Samuel Eto’o, Carlos Kameni, Jean Makoun and Stephane Mbia, but it seems that Cameroon will be fighting it out for second place in Group E at the World Cup with Japan and Denmark with the Netherlands expected to win the group. This fight for second place in the group will almost certainly be a close one, but Denmark and Japan can be expected to put in disciplined performances which may see Cameroon eliminated before the second round.
Ivory Coast – Group G
The Ivorians must have cursed their luck following the 2010 World Cup draw that saw them being placed alongside Brazil and Portugal in the same group. The 2010 African Cup of Nations turned out a major disaster for the Ivorians where they were one of the pre-tournament favourites but were eliminated at the quarter-finals stage at the hand of Algeria. Ivory Coast are probably the best African team on paper and has a marvellous international record in recent years, but a managerial change and their opponents in Group G count heavily against them. If Sven-Göran Eriksson gets the full backing of the team and gets them fired up in the short space of time left before the World Cup, Ivory Coast may surprise many at the World Cup by progressing from the so-called “group of death” against all odds. Yet, one has to favour Brazil and Portugal to progress from the group.
This article took a closer look at the African teams that will be competing at the coming World Cup and briefly desribed what may be expected of them. In summary it seems that all of the African teams face a tough time at the World Cup, which in all likelihood will see most of them eliminated at the group stages. It is however not to say that one or two of them will not perform extremely well in June and July.