Sunday,19 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)
Sunday,19 August, 2018
Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The fair and the foul

Marawan Zayed reports on Africa’s beautiful and ugly faces in the World Cup

Al-Ahram Weekly

African representatives at the World Cup 2014 Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria and Cameroon are showing the world the two sides of African football in an extremely thrilling competition. So far, some of the favourites to win have already bowed out after just two games.

First, we have the mighty Ivory Coast, who is very close to securing qualification to the next round, even though they suffered a defeat at the hands of the magnificent Colombia in their second game of the campaign. After getting off to a flying start against Japan and coming from behind to win 2/1 in their opening game, they had a more difficult task on hand the following game as they faced Colombia, who defeated Greece 3/0 in their first game.

Once again, Drogba started the game on the bench as Sabri Lamouchi started with the same team that defeated Japan.

However, Ivory Coast created very few chances in the first half as it ended 0-0, with Colombia coming close more than once.

The Colombian side started the second half brilliantly and managed to score two goals in the 64th and 70th through man-of-the-moment James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero as Bony, Gervinho and Drogba, who came on for Bony in the 60th minute, missed some decent chances prior to Colombia’s two goals. However, Gervinho struck back in the 73rd minute as he dazzled through the Colombian defense in real style before sending a powerful shot into the back of the net. Some half chances followed the goal, but the Colombian defense stood up to all the challenges and managed to seal another victory and a well-deserved place in round 16.

On the other hand, Ivory Coast, who lost the game, needs only a draw against Greece in the final game of the group to follow Colombia to the next round for the first time in their history. Even though they lost, they were brilliant for most of the game and lacked only the final cutting edge.

Ghana, or the Black Stars, delivered a performance against Germany that was easily the best African performance in the history of the World Cup. The African giants were nothing short of extraordinary as they came extremely close to gaining all three points before the now leading scorer in the history of the World Cup, Miroslav Klose, came off the bench to score an equaliser for the German side to end the game in a 2-2 draw. Klose scored his 15th World Cup goal to equal Ronaldo’s record as well as to break the black stars’ fans hearts, who thought Asamoah Gyan’s strike will pick up a famous victory for their nation over the favourites to win the competition.

Ghana may be finding themselves in a very tough position in the group after losing to the USA in the opening game, but they can take heart from their unbelievable performance against Germany and go for a win against Portugal in the final game of the group.

A draw against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co will not be enough, so they will certainly need a huge performance and the three points against Portugal to stand any chance of qualifying, in addition to Germany beating the USA.

Nigeria is another African team doing great things in Brazil at the moment as they are the only team to stay undefeated after two games from Africa, not conceding a single goal. Their first game was a rather dull one that ended in a goalless draw against an Iranian side that was defending in numbers and made life difficult for the Nigerian side in the attacking third.

In the second game against the spirited Bosnian side, the game was more open and saw plenty of chances for both teams, but it was the African side that managed to take home all three points via Stoke City’s Odemwengie, who struck home the only goal of the game in the closing stages of the first half after Bosnia and Manchester City striker, Eden Dzeko, had a goal wrongfully ruled out for offside a few minutes before the Nigerian goal.

In the second half, chances were present for both teams and Bosnia came extremely close to finding the back of the net twice but Dzeko was denied on both occasions again. Moses had a chance to kill the game, but Begovic saved well from long range until the referee blew the final whistle, much to the joy of the Nigerian squad and fans who must now think they have every right to believe a place in the next round is realistic even though Argentina is the next test.

A draw in the game will take both teams to the next round, while an Argentina win will be coupled with a draw. A Bosnia win over Iran will still see Nigeria follow Argentina to round 16. The only way Nigeria will be knocked out is for them to lose by a two-goal margin against Argentina and Iran to beat Bosnia with the same result.  Nigeria, like Ivory Coast, Algeria and Ghana, can be proud of their efforts in Brazil whether they make it to round 16 or not.

The only Arab African team in the World Cup, Algeria, has been stunning so far. No words can describe how amazing their performance against Korea was as they defeated them 4-2 in emphatic fashion to make their chances of qualifying to round 16 higher than ever.

Many football pundits and experts praised Algeria’s performance against Belgium in the opening game of the campaign as they lost 2-1 in the last 10 minutes after finishing the first half leading by a single goal. The first half against Korea was even better as it ended 3-0 to Algeria thanks to some mesmerising, direct, explosive attacking football that left Korean defenders in no one’s land one after another.

A consolation goal from Korea at the start of the second half did not prevent Algeria from resuming their attacking duties as they added a fourth goal to kill any chances for Korea to get back into the game. The Asian team managed to pull another one back, but that was the end of it as the magnificent Algerian team held on to record an extremely impressive victory that saw them score four goals in a World Cup game, which is such a rare achievement for African teams in World Cups.

Algeria will definitely fancy their chances against a mediocre Russian side that drew against Korea in the first game and lost to Belgium by a single goal in the second knowing that a draw is enough for them to book a place for themselves in Round 16.

Leaving the good side of African football and moving to the bad one, Cameroon, who already bowed out of the competition after two defeats at the hands of Mexico and Croatia, was simply a disgrace. This was followed by a timid performance against Mexico that saw them lose by a single goal only thanks to the referee who disallowed two legitimate goals for Mexico before the winner, Cameroon, were saving their worst to the second game where they were thrashed by Croatia, who won by four goals to nothing.

The disgrace was not about the result, since huge defeats and early elimination are part of the game as we saw with the champions, Spain, and one of the favourites, England. The repulsive Cameroonian behavior on and off the pitch was unacceptable.

First, they did not want to travel to the World Cup before receiving their bonuses for qualifying to the competition. The action itself drew criticism from all over Africa, as many players from different nations worldwide would be ready to pay from their own money to play five minutes in a World Cup, while the Cameroonian players said they would not travel before receiving their full bonuses.

Second, they showed their ugly side on the pitch this time via their dismal performance, behaviour and actions when they faced Croatia in the second game. Captain on the day Alex Song was sent off for an extremely and unbelievably criminal tug on the back of Mandzukic who was running in front of him. They lost by four goals to nothing and could have lost by 7 or 8 goals since every single player on the pitch seemed uninterested and not committed to the cause.

Finally, it was a fight between two Cameroonian players on the pitch that showed that this team did not deserve a place in Brazil in the first place. Zero points from the first two games and a potential zero from three games as they face Brazil next, zero goal scored and five conceded and a red card are the points that summarise Cameroon’s World Cup campaign so far. African fans should be thankful that teams like Ivory Coast, Algeria and Ghana were more than capable of showing the good side of African football in Brazil 2014 even if they failed to qualify to round 16.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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