Brazil 2014: Africa's Potential Impact in Brazil
The first legs of Africa World Cup qualifiers have been played and a clear picture is emerging on who is going to represent Africa at soccer’s biggest showpiece. There has definitely been some surprise score-lines, but no real surprise winner. Some of the expected tough battles turned out to be mere strolls for the eventual winners.
However, with Africa not expected to launch a real challenge for the main prize,
; which group of teams among the ones available will make Africa proud. The last World Cup was a real letdown for Africa as only Ghana and Algeria seemed ready to stand and take advantage of home field status. And, had it not been for Luis Suarez’s very selfish act, Africa would have had its first representative at a World Cup semi-final.
Looking at the ties and their potential outcomes, we can determine that these teams will probably go through,
- Ghana (a 6-1 score-line seems very definitive).
- Algeria (Burkina Faso were lucky to get away with the win and are unlikely to withstand the Algerian onslaught when they get to Algiers)
- Nigeria (Ethiopia were the better team in the first leg but their defensive deficiencies will hold them back)
- Ivory Coast (Senegal seem unable to handle the pace of an illustrious Ivory Coast attack)
- Cameroon (Tunisia couldn’t take advantage of their home field advantage and will probably pay for it)
Favorites v/s Underdogs
The likes of Ivory Coast and Ghana appear to be very strong, but it is one thing playing against weak defenses in Africa and another, facing the world’s best. This next edition of the World Cup will probably showcase a great deal more improved and competitive teams. The favorites will probably include;
- Spain (can’t be discount as they are still arguably the best team in the world)
- Brazil (home field advantage will count for a lot as seen at the Confederations’ Cup )
- Germany (they have the team to win but need their inferiority complex against the likes of Spain, Italy and Brazil)
- Holland (are still underachieving but maybe Van Persie can lead them to glory)
- Argentina (Lionel Messi should always be considered a potential match-winner)
However, some teams can legitimately claim the underdog tag. This World Cup will probably have the biggest potential of upsets. Each year, more teams seem to be able to put out strong line-up.
- Italy (have proven over the years that can bring their A-game at major tournaments. There are at stage where they need to rebuild but can outplay most teams on their best day)
- France (They have been forced to rebuild after the 2010 debacle and will pose a real threat. And have to get through the play-offs before they can stake claim to favorite tag)
- Belgium (Out of nowhere, the Belgians have become a force to be reckoned with. They have one of the strongest squads going to the World Cup but winning it will be another matter. As Italy showed in 2006, experience counts everything)
- Portugal (Just paying a courtesy call to Cristiano Ronaldo
- Chile (Playing some of the best soccer and, will prove a real hurdle for the potential contenders)
What impact will Africa have at next year’s showpiece soccer event
Who will win the 2014 Brazil edition?
Ivory Coast is considered to be the strongest African nation; but, they are certainly not set up to be competitive on the world stage. The team has very significant deficiencies that stem from a lack of good balance in the team. Their defense is weak at best and at worst, extremely porous. Moreover, the fact that Yaya Toure is used as the creative mid-fielder will always work against them when they face most of the better sides. Toure is a fantastic box-to-box mild-fielder but a creative no.10 he is not. Watching the Ivorians play, you get the sense that like Argentina, they are more of a list of who’s-who than a team. If only they had the chemistry that Egypt has along its ranks.
Ghana’s perennial striking issues will probably haunt them again when they arrive in Brazil. They are probably the most balanced side in Africa but lack an effective cutting edge. They are probably Africais best hope in attaining a tournament semi-final slot (that is unless they encounter Uruguay).
Algeria plays some of the most scintillating soccer in Africa but suffer from a lack of quality - in numbers. Nevertheless, if they can overcome the challenge of Burkina Faso, Brazil will be a fantastic stage for them to showcase their attractive style. Not unlike their decent performance in South Africa.
Nigeria are the defending African champions but shouldn’t be considered for more than making up the numbers. They struggled to overcome Ethiopia and in the process, exposed their usual frailty. They are unable to dominate games, even against weaker opponents. And are very lucky they managed to draw the weakest team in the pot. Stephen Keshi will perform miracles just to get them out of their group.
Cameroon and Tunisia are very much alike in the sense that they both have fallen down the pecking order in terms of African soccer. Tunisia only made it to the play-offs because of the incompetence of Cape Verde. Cameroon, on the other hand, is too dependent on an ever-aging Samuel Eto’o. Burkina Faso and Ethiopia will probably just be glad to make history by qualifying. Egypt has no chance of qualifying and Senegal will do well not to concede more goals against the Ivory Coast, let alone make it to Brazil.