With the FIFA World Cup of 2010 almost concluded many will be turning their attentions to assessing the performances of the African hopes from this year’s competition and whether there were enough encouraging signs for the future of African football as a whole. In this the first part of a two part series we review each of the six competing African teams and how their performances may have affected football in their respective nations moving forward into the future.
Expectations for Bafana Bafana where understandably low coming into the tournament as the lowest ever ranked host nation but they where far from a disappointment. Although they failed to progress from the group and lost to 3-0 to Uruguay they recorded a memorable 2-1 win over France and were unlucky not to beat Mexico in a 1-1 draw in the opening match of the tournament.
Many were surprised by the slick passing and openly attacking football attempted by their Brazilian coach which was pulled off relatively successfully by a team that for the most part were punching well above their weight. Finishing on four points above France and having scored 3 goals in 3 matches and only failing to qualify for the last 16 on goal difference should be seen as progress by a team that were given no chance prior to the start of the tournament.
Although a minority of the South African squad ply their trade abroad there where some standout performances from their home based players which should be encouraging. One of which included Siphiwe Tshabalala who showed plenty of skill, pace and attacking flair on the left wing and was also scorer of one of the goals of the tournament in the match against Mexico.
Although South Africa’s highly touted players like Teko Modise and Steven Pieenar rarely showed any flashes of brilliance, Bafana Bafana should be encouraged their sides ability to play attractive and attacking football. Fans should also take positives from the fact that a World Cup held in South Africa should see a new found resurgence in the interest of football in the country. And with a new generation of stars picking up the sport with an established infrastructure way ahead of most African countries already in place, the opportunity for growth and improvement is unlimited.
Star Player – Siphiwe Tshabala
Best Result – France 1 -2 South Africa
The Black Stars progressed the furthest of all the African teams but had their hopes ended controversially at the quarter final stage losing a penalty shootout to Uruguay only after being denied a legitimate goal in the dying seconds of extra time by an intentional handball from Luis Suarez on the line.
But despite their bitter exit Ghana performed well above their expectations with victories over a rapidly emerging United States in the last 16 topped with convincing performances against Denmark and semi finalists Germany. The blend of youth like Dominic Adiyah and experienced players like John Mensah culminated in a strong showing at this year’s competition; with the likes of Kevin Prince-Boateng, Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan who finished on 4 goals, all proving their worth.
Although many feel Ghana were undone by an injustice, there should be plenty of optimism that it’s biggest players performed so confidently on the world stage. With the U20 team recently winning it’s respective World Cup, the youth look in good stead to continue to develop and mature into the professional leagues around the world.
On this years showing Ghana are increasingly looking likely to be the leaders in the African game for the next few years at least.
Star Player – Asamoah Gyan
Best Result – United States 1- 2 Ghana a.e.t
The Super Eagles had what was widely considered as a disappointing tournament finishing bottom of Group B failing to record a single win in the process. Nigeria’s President felt such shame had been brought upon the nation that he took the dramatic decision to ban the international team from competitive competition for two years, only for the decision to be reversed within hours following the threat of sanctions from football’s governing body FIFA.
This was just one of a catalogue of embarrassing incidents for Nigeria off the field which included friendlies being canceled, having their manager sacked shortly before the tournament began and then giving the incoming manager Lars Lagerback a matter of weeks to prepare the squad for the tournament. Many have wasted no time in blaming the Nigerian football federation’s door who took a lot of flack for their role in Nigeria’s poor showing.
But on the field there were some notable performances to savor including that of goalkeeper Vincent Enyema who at times single handedly kept the Nigerians in matches with some magnificent saves.
Victor Obinna and Kalu Uche were explosive at times creating chances for others and scoring too but with every positive there seemed to be a negative after having a player sent off for a moment of madness as his team chased the game against Argentina.
Many of the Nigerian stars made less of an impact than expected with Obafemi Martins and Yakubu Ayigebeni and even Kanu just some of the many that failed to live up to expectations. But some will take comfort in the fact that with better preparation, Nigeria have emerging talents and although currently underperformed and already have household names in African football, they will get another opportunity to prove themselves at the forthcoming Africa Nations Cup in early 2011.
Star Player – Kalu Uche
Best Result – Nigeria 2-2 Greece
What do you think of the performances of South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria at this years World Cup?
Look out for part two for an in depth look at Ivory Coast, Algeria and Cameroon.