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2014 World Cup: African hopes slowly, surprisingly growing in Brazil; 4 out of 5 in contention for last 16

Ghana's Andre Ayew celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Ghana at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza

Ghana’s Andre Ayew celebrates scoring his side’s first goal during the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Ghana at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza

It looked like the same sad old story at the World Cup for Africa, the continent which still hasn’t quite done it on the big stage.

Africa has never had a semifinalist — never mind a real contender for the title — and initially appeared out of its depth again at the start in Brazil.

Cameroon was terrible in the first round of matches, African champion Nigeria couldn’t even beat Iran and Ghana lost to the United States. After some early promise, Algeria was overrun by Belgium, playing up to the football stereotype that African teams can be exciting but also careless and naive.

Even Ivory Coast, with world-class talent like Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba and Gervinho, couldn’t put it together and initially struggled against Japan.

Pele’s prediction years ago that, with a football obsession rivaling even Brazil’s, Africa would emerge as the game’s new force still appeared way off. It probably still is.

But with the exception of Cameroon, the Africans have shown grit and skill to fight back. Now there’s a chance that four of their five teams will make the second round, something that has never happened before. Never has more than one African team advanced past the group stage.

Four years after hosting the World Cup, African players are ready to start having more of an impact on the tournament.

“It’s something awesome for Africa,” Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama said after his country beat Bosnia-Herzegovina to get back on track in Brazil. “Africa needed that win, something to boost the confidence back home.”

Three of the countries — Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Algeria — are second in their groups heading to the final games and have good chances of qualifying, while Ghana has an outside shot. After a forgettable first round, Nigeria’s win, Ghana’s fighting 2-2 draw with Germany and Algeria’s all-out attacking show in a 4-2 victory over South Korea has revived the Africans.

“Ghana really threw everything they had at us,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said, praising the West Africans for their rapid counterattacks and underlining how African teams — often big, strong and fast — are capable of upsetting the rhythm of the best lineups in the world.

Just ask Argentina’s World Cup holders, who lost to Cameroon in 1990. Or France’s defending champions in 2002, beaten by Senegal.

Now if only for some consistency. If there’s one thing African teams have struggled with, it’s being able to build on their small successes at the World Cup.

Following Monday’s loss to Brazil, Cameroon has won just one game in five World Cups since it broke through to reach the quarterfinals in 1990. Senegal was the second African country to make the last eight in 2002, and yet has failed to qualify for another World Cup. Ghana followed up its run to the quarters last time in South Africa with a surprise loss to the U.S. in its opener in Brazil.

The roller-coaster rides with rare, unexpected highs and plenty of lows are partly because it is never simple in African football, where organization can be shambolic and teams have all sorts of challenges to overcome — many their own making.

Cameroon’s 2014 campaign has been disastrous from the moment the squad refused to board a plane for Brazil over a bonus dispute. Nigeria has also had issues over player payments and Ghana’s buildup to its crucial final group game against Portugal is being overshadowed by British media linking the Ghana Football Association to an alleged match-fixing plan.

Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic decided to rant at Algerian reporters when his team had just beaten South Korea for its first win at the World Cup since 1982.

“You journalists have always criticized me,” Halilhodzic said. “It’s a pity for you. I’m sorry for you.”

Yet the majority of African teams are still alive at the World Cup — unlike Spain and England — and their equations to make the second round aren’t crazily difficult.

Ivory Coast should beat Group C strugglers Greece, but even a draw won’t hold them back as long as Japan doesn’t upset Colombia.

Nigeria plays Argentina last and will qualify with a point or even a loss if Bosnia beats or draws with Iran in the other Group F game.

Algeria can afford a draw against Russia if South Korea doesn’t win against Group H leader Belgium. A win and the North Africans sail through.

Ghana’s chances are a little more remote.

But three teams in the last 16 would finally signal some progress 24 years after Roger Milla and Cameroon danced their way to the quarterfinals in Italy, first prompting Pele and the world to take notice of African football.

READERS COMMENTS

  1. Chukwe says:

    CIV,Nigeria n Algeria definitely storming the last 16.

    • Johnny says:

      Nope, not Ivory Coast!! The ‘Golden Generation’ has failed again. At 1-1, with one minute left in injury time, they committed a penalthy and Greece converted for the win. Ivory Coast could not make it out of this soft group. Sad.

  2. ohthree says:

    Ivory coast,Algeria and Nigeria are in a good position 2 qualify and i see all 3 qualifying.
    Ghana arent in a good position at all.Ghana would need only a miracle to qualify.

  3. Chukwe says:

    Cameroun was a wasted spot but they’ve already done their part by being the first African country to reach the last 8 and getting Africa Hv 5 spots.

  4. Obomuaku says:

    Ghana made a mistake of underestimating the USA and focussing too much on CR 7,nxt time take one match at a time Ghana instead of looking at the lat match(Portugal).
    The USA is no longer a baseball nation as you call it here in Ghana .big mistake especially with Klinsman at the realm and I’m sure they’ll beat Germany. Cameroun nearly beat German 2 weeks ago in their own backyard.

  5. Selfmade says:

    Cameroun and Ghana qualified dubiously. They dont deserve to be @ the WC and they are out just after making numbers. Nigeria, IC and Algeria are in contention especially our champions of africa Naija. Big lesson to my poor Ghana who faced opponents whome they cannot force to train in the car park. Naija may qualify even if they lose, what about my stupid Ghana? Just accusing innocent USA + Germany of conspiring to eliminate us. Gateway to Africa with no international airport just overhyping ghan

  6. Mumbi says:

    Ghana is the gateway to africa u can’t dispute that. The whites used atlantic ocean to get into africa via ghana for slave trade not by air please. Even now ghanaians have slave mentality running in their blood. If u marry a ghanaian, u end up regreating the breed u’ve produced coz the behaviour of such offsprings will be terrible!!!

  7. thankGodamnotanigerians says:

    Come on yy do you guyz wanna hate on Ghana .Just becos we re good we irritate u to the extent that you search through the net to find a ghanaian site to write such nonsense.get a job fools

  8. Randy says:

    dont know wat dis Selfmade guy want frm us….u just hating cos we far better dan wer u cum frm..u r just one ignorant stooge.

  9. Johnny says:

    OMG, Luis Suarez bites again, on the football field!! He ran after and bit Italian defenser, Chielini. Why is this guy still playing football? This is the third time he has bitten an opponent on the field. After the first two bites, he racially abused Evra on the field, and yet they allowed him to continue playing. This is pure favoritism; the guy must be banned for life!

  10. Dreada says:

    shame on u fake selfmade for exposing your self by misspelling Gyan..lol and as for mumbi hmm the least said abt you the better, Ghana is down so rejoice but when we manage to rise, bury yr head in a pit laterene

  11. Mumbi says:

    @ jonny, Suarez has become so foolish like Mario Balloteli who dumped Ghana for Italy. Kwaku Bonsam have cast a serious irreversabal spell on this 2 great players. After bitting a PSV defender from Holland and then Ivanovic of Chelsea then repeat the same @ wc, its not good at all just bcoz Uruquay eliminated Ghana in 2010 WC. Balloteli now wants to burn Trains with ciggarates.

  12. Bostonman redsox says:

    Unfortunately we have to kiss cote d bye. Hope for 3 African countries to make it

  13. Gbodo says:

    Who said Cameroon n Ghana didnt deserve to qualify?…U must be dumb,Ghana didnt benefit from boardroom points unlike cameroun n useless zambia,who cudnt beat Sudan home n away,but still wanted to.qualify…An indisciplined team.dat fails to report on time at a match venue for brushup but decides to jog in a car park jux so they can cover their unprofessionalism n ineptitude….have u forgotten how Egypt were annihilated by de BS….get a life losers…FYI,CIV jux crashed out at de grp stage again..lets pray Nigeria,Algeria n Ghana progress to de 2nd rd.

  14. hassan says:

    Is simple people hate Ghana because deep within their hearts they know we are better than them..because we wouldn’t do that to our African brothers

  15. mikron says:

    my super eagles will shock the world in brazil. bookmark this page

  16. antell95 says:

    Nairaland is down, I’m back to these site

    Gaynaians beware!

    where are my Naija Broz??????