NewsNorth AfricaAfrica's hopes in the 2014 World Cup


Posted on Monday, 24 February 2014 13:57

Africa's hopes in the 2014 World Cup

Image©Panoramic; Sipa; Graphic: Emeric TherondThe field of close to 50 African teams narrowed down to a final five for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as the year drew to a close.

The battle saw the best and worst of African football on display with explosive play, passionate fans and also questionable refereeing decisions.

The referees denied Ethiopia a clear goal on 16 November after Saladin Said's attempt was cleared away dramatically by Nigerian defender Godfrey Oboabona when the ball was clearly over the line.

This was one of several contentious decisions over the two matches the teams played together.

In the match between Burkina Faso and Algeria on 12 October, Zambian referee Jani Sikazwe awarded a penalty for a handball against Algeria's Essaïd Belkalem.

The penalty came only four minutes from the end of the match, even though Belkalem had clearly placed his arms behind his back as he went in to block a shot.

The penalty gave Burkina Faso a 3-2 first-leg win.

Even more worrying were the match results that had to be annulled from the earlier round after seven teams inexplicably used players who were ineligible due to suspensions.

African panache

Ultimately, the best teams got through to the last qualifying stages, and the final round of matches showed some of the great qualities of African football as play swung from end to end and the continent's silky skills were on display.

The final round had five West African teams, three from North Africa, one from Central Africa and one East African side.

The qualifying round showed that African football remains heavily tilted towards the traditionally dominant regions.

For Southern and East African teams, the lack of progress is a constant and worrying factor.

The national federations need to go back to the drawing board to address the situation.

Could 2014 be the World Cup in which African football finally comes of age?

Four years ago, Ghana was within a whisker of becoming the first African team to reach the final four but was undone by the lottery of the penalty shoot-out.

Of the six African representatives in South Africa in 2010, several teams arrived in disarray after making last-minute coaching changes.

Nigeria hurriedly brought in Lars Lagerbäck, and Côte d'Ivoire appointed Sven-Göran Eriksson to the coaching job.

Such mayhem before a major tournament is hardly a recipe for success.

The teams may have learned their lessons this time around.

Each World Cup brings its fair share of hope and aspirations.

This is nowhere more true than on the African continent, where millions of Africans who face the hardships of day-to-day life live their dreams through their football teams.

If only their level of enthusiasm and commitment was matched by African football's leaders, Africa's World Cup ambitions would be further down the road than they are today. ●


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