2014 World Cup Feature: Will Africa's WC reps rise from the slumber?
The tired statistic is that no African country has ever progressed beyond the quarter-finals of the Fifa World Cup although four years ago, the Black Stars of Ghana, came closest to breaking that duck.
However, Liverpool star Luis Suarez stopped an injury time goal-bound shot on the line using his hand and was subsequently sent off but Uruguay went on to beat the West Africans on penalties to once again deny the Africans a first semi-final spot.
This statistic does not bode well for a continent that has produced several world-class stars and provided some of the World Cup’s most memorable moments.
One soccer pundit this week reminded me of Africa’s first representatives at the Fifa World Cup, the DR Congo, then popularly known as Zaire, who lost 9-0 to Yugoslavia in 1974.
Then came the 1990 World Cup in Italy where veteran Cameroonian Roger Milla’s flamboyant celebration routine draw the attention of the world as Cameroon were knocked out of the quarter-finals, thanks to England’s Gary Lineker exploits.
In Brazil 2014, Africa will be represented by Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon and Ghana.
Of the five, Ghana, which is Africa’s best prospect is in the toughest group where they are drawn together with Germany, Portugal and USA.
The Black Stars have some of the best experienced players in top-flight leagues such as veteran Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari as well as Andre Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah, Asamoah Gyan and recalled Kevin-Prince Boateng.
On paper, Ivory Coast has by far the strongest team from the continent but their stars have always flattered to deceive whether it is in the continental or Fifa World Cup competition.
Ivory Coast has a good chance to top its group that includes Colombia, Japan and Greece. Chelsea legend Didier Drogba leads the attack for the Ivoirians, while Yaya Toure steamrolls the opposition with his marauding runs from midfield. Lille forward Salomon Kalou and Roma’s Gervinho provide width and incision.
Gervinho might have flopped badly at Arsenal, but has resurrected his career with Roma in Italy where he helped the club qualify for the European Champions Cup.
Nigeria is another team which might surprise most soccer fans. The current Africa Cup of Nations champions do not have many star names, but under coach Steven Keshi, they have come up with a new brand of attacking football.
They are an exciting collective team and in Jon Obi Mikel, Joseph Yobo, Peter Odemwingie, Shola Ameobi and Victor Moses they have potential match winners on the day.
The Super Eagles have strung together impressive results but the African champions are in a tough Group comprising Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran. It is hard to see them emerge from a group that contains one of the greatest stars of all time in Lionel Messi.
Cameroon and Algeria who are the other African representatives are in relatively easy Groups but going by their performances of late, they are going to Brazil to make numbers.
Yet, by virtue of playing in Brazil, a country with massive cultural links with the African continent, this was an ideal opportunity for Africa to do the continent proud.
But as they say, you never know with the game of soccer. It is as unpredictable as weather.