Is it finally Africa’s turn to win the World Cup?


PeleThe predicted due date of the infamous African World Cup has passed, but it has still been overtaken by every FIFA World Cup as the continent still awaits its first global title.

“An African nation will win the World Cup before the year 2000,” Pele declared somewhat ambitiously in light of Zaire’s disastrous campaign in 1977 – and a 9–0 thrashing by Yugoslavia at the 1974 tournament.

Things haven’t been that bad since then, but there hasn’t been much in the way of concrete improvement in the African World Cup. cameroonThe run to the 1990 quarterfinals remains Africa’s high watermark, which has been emulated Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010), but never crossed over.

Pele also extended his prediction to 2010, but this too proved to be in vain.

Indeed, the continent’s collective performances have arguably declined in recent decades, with the 2018 tournament the first since 1982 – when Africa had only two participants – where none reached the knockouts.

In the 80s, in two tournaments, 25 percent of Africa’s World Cup participants reached the knockouts, rising to 33 percent in three tournaments – and 10 participants – in the 90s.

In the 2000s, again with 10 participants and two tournaments, only 20 percent of teams reached the knockouts, while the last 16 participants – in the last three editions – recorded a 25 percent success rate of progress.

African teams have collectively won three group games in each tournament since 1998, a win rate of 20 percent that dropped to 16.6 percent in 2010 when Africa had six representatives instead of five.

Coaching instability and inappropriate managerial appointments have often denied African teams continuity, depriving teams of the familiarity or calmness that comes with managerial stability.

Some of Africa’s best sides have been hit by last-minute coaching reshuffle – think Nigeria Think parting ways with Philippe Troussier – or poor managerial appointments – before appointing Bora Milutinovic only six months before the 1998 World Cup Ivory Coast Tasking Sabri Lamouchi, who had no prior coaching experience, to oversee their Golden Generation in 2012.

Lars Lagerback’s appointment to the Super Eagles and Sven-Göran Eriksson’s appointment to the Ivorians – four and three months respectively before the 2010 World Cup – spanned both categories.

Too often talented and successful sides have found themselves grappling with new managers and attempting to learn new approaches on the eve of the World Cup, with the FA trying to satiate the local appetite for a big-name, high-profile coach and Willing to justify higher expenditure on salary. appointment of a foreigner.

“The coaches’ potential for success was limited by the fact that they often did not fully identify with African culture, mentality and lifestyle or knew little about these actors,” stated FIFA’s technical statement after the 2010 World Cup. Read the report.

That all being said…

This year, Africa’s quintet are in a unique position where all five are being supervised by local head coaches – the first time in history that this has happened for all of Africa’s World Cup representatives.

Aliu Cisse has been Senegal’s coach since 2015, having previously earned his stripes with the under-23 team. During the past seven years, he has cultivated a cohesive, family atmosphere that is generally loyal to players while relying on a tactical approach that plays to his team’s strengths.

He oversaw progress – including first-ever World Cup qualification as well as the first-ever Africa Cup of Nations title – and has tournament experience as both player and head coach. With Cisse, Senegal has a track record of consistency, stability and critically, success.

The other four head coaches were not in their current positions at the start of the year, with Rigobert Song and Otto Addo taking the reins of Cameroon and Ghana respectively, and Walid Regargui and Jalel Kadri being appointed. Morocco And Tunisia after qualification.

However, all four have had coaching experience within the national framework prior to their appointment, and are familiar with the national pool at their disposal.

Likewise, they all oversaw a boost in morale after replacing unpopular predecessors; with Addo and Song enjoying a particularly high reputation in their homeland after eliminating Nigeria and stunning algeria respectively in the playoffs.

Regargui has revived the Atlas Lions at the right time after replacing the deeply unpopular Vahid Halilhojic, whose hardline approach and exclusion of key players had not gone down well.

Economic losses, inadequate logistics, corruption and mismanagement, and limited infrastructure have also served to restrict progress, as have persistent financial disagreements that have undermined the performance of African teams.

Ghana and Cameroon both erupted in 2014 against the backdrop of bonus disputes, where Nigeria also boycotted training ahead of a last 16 meeting with them. FranceAs Togo threatened in 2006 Queue,

The potential contenders have also struggled to deal with dreaded group stage draws as well as timely injuries to key players.

Including sadio mane This year, ahead of the 2010, 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the best African footballers of the year have been injured. Didier Drogba and mohammad salah Both managed to hit the ground running, but both were pale shadows of their selves, while for Mane, who had finished second in the Ballon d’Or just the previous month, there would be no fairytale comeback.

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Gabe Marcotti and Julian Lawrence pick their favorites to win the World Cup in Qatar.

Africa’s World Cup-bound teams have largely arrived at the tournament, with the glaring exceptions of Mane, whose absence necessitates a re-evaluation of Senegal’s prospects, and Ghana, who are without both their primary goalkeepers and their first-choice defensive midfielder. There are injuries.

The country’s President Nana Akufo-Addo appears unfazed, recently claiming that Pele “had Ghana in mind” when he made his bold 1977 prediction. World/JSDKBXM

This year, neither side of the continent can really claim to have been drawn particularly heinously, as has been the case in the past. Drogba’s Ivory Coast had to contend with both Argentina And this Netherlands in 2006, and both Brazil And Portugal in 2010. Despite their wealth of talent, the elephants were unable to advance.

In 2002, Nigeria met Argentina, england And Sweden In Round One, Ghana met GermanyPortugal and United States of america in 2014, while Morocco faced both spain and in Portugal Russia, All three failed to make progress.

Changes to the way the World Cup draw is conducted since 2018 have reduced the likelihood of disproportionately difficult groups, although Nigeria still found themselves up against both Argentina and eventual finalists. Croatia In 2018.

Based on the FIFA world rankings, Cameroon have the toughest group of African sides in 2022, with World Cup favorites Brazil the most ominous threat. Switzerland while ranked 15th in the world Serbia Outside the top 20 in the world.

After standing up against Ghana and Morocco are against it Uruguay and Portugal and Croatia and belgium respectively, but each can be quietly confident that their vitality and youth – the Black Stars are the youngest squad in the tournament – ​​could trouble teams that rely on some of the oldest players in the competition and at both ends There is a risk of aging. Pitch’s

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James Ole recalled a remarkable speech by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, in which he called out the “hypocrisy” of nations criticizing Qatar.

Next up is Senegal, who comfortably have the tastiest job of Africa’s five teams. As Sunday’s opener showed, Qatar appear outmatched as hosts and should not be a match for the African champions, while Ecuador — ranked 44th in the world — will find it very tough going forward against the Teranga Lions.

Senegal’s opener against the Netherlands, ranked eighth in the world, is perhaps the toughest singles encounter of Cisse’s tenure, but the West African will still back himself to progress to the knockouts.

However, this is where the loss of Mane could scuttle their attempts to emulate the illustrious generation of 2002 or even break new ground for African competitors.

However, this Senegalese team is living proof of how merit and success on the biggest stage of all can leave a legacy that benefits generations to come.

The Teranga Lions may quickly fail to build on their run to the 2002 quarterfinals, not returning to the World Cup until 2018, but the side that has now qualified for back-to-back editions will be inspired by the achievements of their heroes. Were. The youth inspire a new generation with a desire to emulate the feats of Papa Bouba Diop, El Hadji Diouf, Salif Diaouf and others.

“The generation of 2002 is a reference for them,” Seuss told ESPN earlier this year. “Many of our players followed us, and some even told me that they were in the bus that followed our bus.

“It’s moving, that they have these reference points, it really touches me.”

For both Senegal and even Ghana the legacy of past international successes is starting to show on the fortunes of the teams today, and they could prove a valuable source of sustenance for those looking to break new ground in Qatar.

What all five teams have done successfully and effectively – the trend for this year’s African contingent more than ever – is to integrate players from the wider diaspora into their World Cup squads.

Each of the five rely heavily on key players born and raised outside Africa Kalidou Coulibaly and Edward Mendy, inaki williams And Eric Maxim Choupo-MotingAkraf Hakimi and prince zeich All bring the learnings and experiences of their specific routes to the top to bear on a national level.

Even without Mane, at least four out of five of the continent’s representatives lack star power and Champions League experience, while Africa’s players are graduating from top academies and working with the best coaches such as never done before.

If head coaches can continue to mix between homegrown talent and diaspora stars, if they can continue to foster an environment where connections can be established between players who have never been inside a country and who Of the nations they are now representing, then Africa’s World Cup challenge may be stronger and richer than in the past.

With France having won two World Cups featuring major stars born in Africa or born to African parents, African teams are starting to make sure that the globalization of football works for them too.

“An African team should win the World Cup in the near future,” said CAF President Dr. Patrice Motsepe said last year.

win it? maybe not [sorry, Pele…] But even without Mane, there is reason for cautious optimism that the 2022 Representative of Africa can at least improve the continent’s fortunes after the 2018 first-round whitewash.

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