South Africa 2010: Will Ghana keep the African dream alive?

Enthusiasm for the six African countries that qualified to play in the on-going FIFA World Cup 2010 was very high. Considering the tournament was being hosted in Africa for the first time, the general feeling among Africans was that retaining the cup in Africa would be the best way to crown the historical event. It was heart-warming to observe many Africans rally around the South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Algeria. However, performance from these 6 countries have been very disappointing. It turns out that only the youthful Ghanaian national team – the Black Stars – qualified to the second round of the competition.

With the Ghana versus USA match being about two hours away, I am compelled to reflect on the abysmal performance of the African teams that have been dropped like a pack of cards from the tournament.

South Africa
Being the host nation, expectations of South Africans was very very high, and justifiably so. President Jacob Zuma was widely reported as saying his hands were itching to touch the World Cup trophy. Considering that South Africa has never been very good with football, I thought President Zuma’s expectations were a bit unrealistic. In South Africa’s first match, they could only manage a draw against Mexico despite the hailing home group and deafening vuvuzelas. South Africa was soon edged out of the tournament by Mexico, on goal difference despite the former’s gallant performance against France.

The Super Eagles’ performance would not come as much of a shock to any close observer of Nigerian football. Nigerian football suffers a myriad of problems that mostly revolve around the football administration, Nigerian Football Federation (NFF). Allegations of bribery & corruption are rife, and the incompetence of the NFF is pretty obvious. Poor planning/organization preceded the South Africa 2010 tournament. Hiring a coach a few months to the world’s greatest football tournament was the final straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. After loosing to Argentina and Greece, Nigeria was still clinging on hopes of goal difference to stay afloat.

This analysis would not be complete without mentioning the brave efforts of the Nigerian goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama. His many timely saves kept the goals against Nigeria minimal considering the severe attacks by Argentina’s strikers and the confused Nigerian defenders. In that match, Vincent made six fine saves, four of them from Lionel Messi, and was the major reason for Nigeria coming so close to almost pinching a draw against the two-time world champions. Despite the loss, he was named Man of the Match.

Despite beating Angola 2010 champions Egypt at the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, Algeria failed to shine in South Africa 2010. After loosing to Slovenia and playing a goal-less draw with England, a 1-0 loss to the USA nailed Algeria’s exit from the tournament. I can’t help thinking Egypt would have done much better in South Africa if they were luckier to have qualified.

Ghana's head coach Milovan Rajevac (centre R-in red) and his players gather during a training session at Mogwase stadium in Mogwase, north of Rustenburg, on June 10, 2010 ahead of the start of the 2010 World Cup football tournament.
Ghana's head coach Milovan Rajevac (centre R-in red) and his players gather during a training session at Mogwase stadium in Mogwase, north of Rustenburg, on June 10, 2010 ahead of the start of the 2010 World Cup football tournament. Image courtesy:

Despite the fact that Ghana is the only nation proceeding to the second round of South Africa 2010, their performance so far has been short of satisfactory. A 2-1 victory of Australia over Serbia pushed Ghana into the next stage alongside Germany. Ghana qualified based on goal differences despite having the same 4 points as Australia. It is also instructive to note that the only two goals scored by the Black Stars of Ghana so far are based on penalty shots as a result of foul play by Serbia and Australia respectively.

Many Ghanaians lowered their expectations of the Black Stars’ performance following the news that Chealsea-striker Michael Essien was not to take part in South Africa 2010 due to injuries he picked-up during Angola 2010.

The central African nation is currently the highest ranked African national team by FIFA World Rankings. The Indomitable Lions are Africa’s most successful senior national team having qualified to participate in World Cup tournament 6 times and having reached the quarter final in Italia ’90. Despite their enviable records, a stream of losses against Japan, Denmark and the Netherlands saw Cameroon crash out of South Africa 2010 with no single point to their name.

Cote d’Ivoire
In all fairness, The Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire had a little chance of dribbling past Brazil (current best football team in the world) and Portugal (3rd best team in the world) to qualify to the second round. Despite drawing against Portugal in their opening match and beating North Korea 3-0 in the last match, The Elephants were knocked out by Portugal’s overall better performance.

What are your views on Africa’s poor performance in South Africa 2010? Do well to share your comments here and now!

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Oluniyi D. Ajao
Oluniyi D. Ajao is an Internet Entrepreneur and Tech Enthusiast based in South Africa. Follow him on twitter @niyyie for more tech updates.

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