2014 World Cup: Proud Africa bows out of Brazil
Africa’s interest in the World Cup came to an end on Monday after the continent’s two last 16 representatives, Nigeria and Algeria, bowed out from Brazil.
The Super Eagles, reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions, lost 2-0 to France in Brasilia, while the brave Desert Foxes pushed Germany 120 minutes before succumbing 2-1 in Porto Alegre.
It was a sad end for the continent, but nonetheless ended arguably their most impressive tournament ever.
Never before had two African countries progressed from their group at the same finals, so the achievements of the Nigerians and Algerians was already a new mark, although the fact that Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal had reached the quarter-finals of previous World Cups cannot be ignored.
The 15 matches involving the continent’s five teams – Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Algeria – yielded three wins, three draws and nine losses.
The most impressive victory was produced by north Africans Algeria when they thumped South Korea 4-2 in Group H that also included winners Belgium as well as Russia.
Cameroon lost all three matches in Group A to Mexico, Croatia and hosts Brazil, while Ivory Coast’s solitary win from a Group C was against Japan. Unfortunately the Elephants then lost to pool winners Colombia and Greece to bow out.
While there was minimal interest from South Africans by way of representation after Bafana Bafana’s failure to qualify, there would have been some curiosity from fans of Absa Premiership clubs Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates.
The league champions had two of their players at the 2014 finals, Ghana defender Rashid Sumaila and Nigeria winger Ejike Uzoenyi. Another Ghanaian, goalkeeper Fatau Dauda, was flying the flag of the Buccaneers.
Two of those three players did get game-time for their countries, with Dauda especially impressive in his two outings for the Black Stars.
The 29-year-old, the Pirates’ reserve goalkeeper behind Senzo Meyiwa, did not start the Group G loss to the United States, but was given his chance thereafter, playing a prominent role as the west Africans played to a famous 2-2 draw with their more illustrious opponents, Germany.
He also wore the gloves against Portugal, a match his side needed to win, but lost 2-1 as they were dumped out after being placed bottom of the group.
Sumaila, 21, did not get any game time for his country.
Uzoenyi, who is on the books of the Brazilians but has yet to represent them, was the only one of the three to feature in a game his side won. He played 15 minutes as a substitute when Stephen Keshi’s side beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 on June 21.
The 26-year-old, the player of the tournament at CHAN held earlier this year, was loaned to Nigerian Premier League outfit Enugu Rangers after signing for Sundowns six months ago.
He received a late call-up to the Nigerian squad after the withdrawal of Echiejile Elderson, but did not play in the other Group F matches against Argentina or Iran.