Ivory Coast is another African hope in the World Cup
At the start of the new year the only thing that came to my mind was the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil this coming June. The contest looks to be an exciting one and everybody who is a football faithful or expert just like me cannot wait to see 32 teams take on each other from group stages to knockout stages and to the final in the space of a month.
The World Cup is the biggest football event in the world, and I will always be delighted to watch it but it becomes hard to continue following it after an all the African sides crash out. The last time I wrote a feature on 2014 World Cup I was talking about Nigeria being the next African side to progress to the knockout stages and be the first country to reach the semi-finals of the ultimate global football competition.
After the 2014 FIFA World Cup draw commenced, I was hoping Nigeria would avoid some big name nations from Europe, and my dream came true as they are only threatened by Lionel Mess’s Argentina, Iran and Bosnia-Hercegovina, a squad that has only one-star player in Manchester City's Edin Dzeko at their disposal. But anything is possible in football. That is why I want to set my eyes on another African team that can do us Africans proud in six months time.
Ivory Coast, a side that has never made the knockout stages in the last two editions, can break the record and see themselves far in the competition. They have been pitted in the same group with Colombia, Greece, andJapan in Group C. If the Elephants play their hearts out, they might win the group. If not, then second place because I believe they must be on their best to stop star striker Radamel Falcao, who guided the South American side Colombia to their first World Cup in 16 years and outclassed one of the continental powerhouses Uruguay to finish second behind Argentina.
Japan are a good side and they were one of the few teams who didn’t really struggle to book their flight to Brazil but I see them and Euro 2004 Champions Greece packing their bags just after their three group matches.
Other individuals might be setting their eyes on Cameroon, who have set a date against hosts Brazil in Group A. The Indomitable Lions have Samuel Eto’o back in the fold but the same player hasn’t impressed me in his new club Chelsea, so I see the North Africans not producing the displays that fans used to see from individuals such as Roger Miller, who in 1990 became the side’s hero when he stole the ball from famous Colombian goal-minder Rene Higuita from 35-yards out and ran towards goal to slot the ball in an unguarded net to send Cameroon to the last eight.
Let me look at Algeria, who booked their spot in Brazil by beating 2013 Africa Cup of Nations runner-up Burkina Faso on away goals after a 3-3 stalemate over two-legs. The Arabs were also a surprising package when they made it to last finals in 2010, and they will, again, see themselves making history by reaching the showpiece twice-in-a-row as I don’t see them finishing at least second above European pair Belgium and Russia. But a win is what I believe they can obtain over the other challenger in Group H, South Korea.
To complete the five nations that are going to represent the African continent, let me study Ghana. The Black Stars were the side to watch in the last two World Cup finals finishing in the last eight on both occasions. In 2010, they were on their way to the semi-finals only for Uruguay and current Liverpool striker Luis Suarez's goal line hand ball and Asomoah Gyan rattling the bar from the penatly spot preventing the Black Stars to progress.
Ghana is a good side and they didn’t show mercy in their qualifiers when they humiliated Egypt, 7-3, on aggregate. I'm proud that they made it to the finals thrice on the trot, but I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw them grouped with two of the World Cup favourites in Germany and Christiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Group G. Football has lots of upsets and stranger things can happen but to finish above those two teams is a hard nut to crack even the U.S. are aware of this, and maybe the Yanks will want to settle the score after the Ghanaians beat them in the knockout stages in South Africa when the sides meet in the group stages this year.
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