By Kent Mensah
The journey has ended. It has been a trip full of suspense, captivating moments and surprises. Fifty-two African countries jumped onto the bumpy ride to Brazil 2014 a year ago, but only five survived the knotty expedition that came to an end on Tuesday night.
FIRST TO BOOK A FLIGHT | Super Eagles beat Ethiopia
It has been a week of tears and joy on the continent. Africa’s Big Five have been unveiled for the 2014 World Cup. Nigeria’s Super Eagles spread their wings and flew over Ethiopia, Ivory Coast’s Elephants overpowered the toothless Teranga Lions from Senegal whiles the ear-splitting roar of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon brought down the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia with the Black Stars confirming their seat in Brazil after an emphatic 3-7 aggregate win over the dreaded Pharaohs of Egypt.
Coincidentally, the quintet also represented Africa at the last World Cup which was first held on the continent in South Africa.
A total of 152 matches (198 games in 2010) were played. 365 goals were produced as against 506 during the 2010 qualifiers. In all 494 yellow cards were recorded accompanied by eight reds. Three players – Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan, Egypt duo Mohamed Aboutrika and Mohammed Salah – were joint-top scorers after having scored six goals each throughout the campaign.
The Black Stars topped the goalscoring chart with 25 goals and conceded just six after eight games. Ivory Coast followed with 19 strikes and picked up seven from their net whiles Egypt scored same as the Elephants, but swallowed as much as 14 from eight games with Algeria netting three less than the Pharaohs and conceded seven fewer than them. Nigeria secured the eighth spot with 11 goals and four against whiles Cameroon lie at the 18th position of the log with nine strikes and four concession.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
YES WE CAN | Time for Africa to conquer the world
Nigeria were the first African side to book a ticket at the 2014 World Cup. The football-mad nation came off as leaders of Group F with 12 points, bagged seven goals and picked three from their net. The Super Eagles were aggregate winners over Ethiopia (1-4). Brazil 2014 will be their fifth appearance. They first made it to the global stage in 1994 and finished in the second round. After stumbling at the last edition, the Super Eagles have been offered another opportunity to fly high in Brazil, hopefully, with a local coach Stephen Keshi.
Ghana got to the play-off phase after leading Group D with 15 points. They scored 18 goals and conceded three at the group stage. The Black Stars guaranteed their place in the finals following a 6-1 drubbing of Egypt in the first-leg World Cup play-off in Kumasi. The Cairo battle was mere formalities and the four-time African champions did little to threaten the Pharaohs. They left the north African country with their heads held high despite a 2-1 loss in the second-leg. Brazil 2014 would be their third-straight tournament and this time with an indigenous coach who also masterminded their qualification. The Ghanaians were the third African team to reach the last eight of a World Cup in South Africa 2010.
|Bernard Parker||South Africa||5|
|Salomon Kalou||Ivory Coast||5|
Algeria booked their place at the 2014 Fifa World Cup after a showdown with 2013 Africa Cup of Nations losing finalists Burkina Faso. Thanks to captain Madjid Bougherra the north Africans, who managed 15 points in Group H after scoring 13 and letting in four, booked a ticket to their fourth World Cup. The Desert Foxes beat the Stallions 1-0 to go through on the away goals’ rule after the first game ended 3-2 in favour of Paul Put’s side. They first made it to the global football fiesta in Spain 1982 followed by Mexico 1986 with South Africa 2010 being their third appearance.
THIRD-STRAIGHT TOURNAMENT | The Elephants march on to Brazil 2014
The Elephants outclassed the Teranga Lions of Senegal in the two-legged play-off that ended 4-2 on aggregate. They had to battle the likes of Morocco and Gambia in the group stages to finish as winners with 14 points with 15 goals in their basket and letting go five. The west African powerhouse have never gone beyond the first round of the World Cup since making their first appearance in Germany 2006, but have never missed the party after making their debut. The draw has never been in their favour though, and Didier Drogba’s inspired ‘Golden Generation’ will hope to get a sympathetic pairing come December 6.
The Indomitable Lions have registered an African record seventh World Cup after flogging the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia 4-1 in Yaounde after the first leg finished in a goalless draw in Tunis. No wonder they were the continent’s first to reach the quarter-finals of the Mundial in 1990. Their journey to Brazil 2014 was nearly marred by an internal squabble, but got over it to book a ticket. They bagged a paltry eight goals and conceded three during the group campaign and came out as a 1-4 aggregate winners against Tunisia during the play-off. The next World Cup could be the last chance for veteran Samuel Eto’o to give something to his country.
Africa’s quintet will know their World Cup group opponents on December 6 when the draw is conducted at Bahia in Brazil.