The Goal Nigeria team talk through their expectations and predictions for Africa's Five Nations at the Brazil World Cup this summer.
The Goal Nigeria Team
The 2014 World Cup is well underway. Hosts Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 during a controversial opener, and Group A continues tonight.
Today also introduces Africa's first competitors, Cameroon, into the tournament as the Indomitable Lions take on Mexico.
To celebrate the continent's debut at the 2014 event, the Goal Nigeria team have put together their predictions for Africa's quintet of competitors this summer.
d Cup is No Pla
The Super Eagles are Africa’s Champions and should, in principle, travel to Brazil as the continent’s chief hope for a place in the Final Eight or…without being too ambitious…a maiden spot in the semi-finals.
When the group stages were draw, optimism was fuelled further. Argentina are ominous but familiar foe while Nigeria, on a good day, shouldn’t have too much trouble with Iran or debutants Bosnia.
Since then, however, the mood has changed.
Stephen Keshi has come under scrutiny after his side have gone five matches without a win, while his squad selection policy ahead of the tournament has largely failed to use the immense resources available to the nation.
His approach has, at best, been baffling, at worst, been downright suspicious.
Despite the recent concerns, Nigeria still boast one of the world’s best goalkeepers, a handful of defence defenders, an established, versatile midfield base and, in Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses, two strikers capable of troubling any defence.
A nation awaits…d Cup is No Pla
Dreams of ending their decades of fruitless World Cup campaigns for international glory remain in sight of Cameroon as they kick off against Mexico tonight, before later facing Croatia and hosts Brazil.
The prospect of the Indomitable Lions going far starts with its opening day opponent, Mexico. The country from the CONCACAF zone only managed to squeeze their way into the finals in Brazil thanks to fourth spot finish, before seeing off New Zealand in the playoffs two-leg intercontinental clash.
The El Tri led by new boss Miguel Herrera boasts of host of talents, but less individual class to the four-time African champions.
This is the best opportunity for Cameroon to assert themselves in Group A.
Even if they beat the Central Americans, chances of Cameroon's progress at first sight seem dim in the midst of their other Group A opponents.
Could the difference-maker be Samuel Eto’o? The striker is arguably the finest African forward of his generation, but has left scant legacy on the international stage—a first appearance in the knock-out stages for 24 years would make for a fine international swansong.
d Cup is No Pla
How will Ghana do at the World Cup? Frankly, this is a question that could be answered by simply looking back at what they have done in the past.
Admittedly, history doesn’t always tell the entire story of events for the future, but it’s always a good place to start.
In South Africa 2010, while other African teams fell by the wayside early in the competition, Ghana held firm and, if not for a combination of late bitter drama featuring Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Asamoah Gyan, they almost made it to their (and Africa’s) first semi-final appearance.
Though the disappointments of that particular tournament still linger, Brazil 2014 provides a resounding atmosphere and a splendid opportunity to right the wrongs of years past.
Coach Kwesi Appiah’s fine blend of old experienced heads—Michael Essien & co.—with vibrant, exciting young talents such as Jordan Ayew and Christian Atsu allows for some subtle indulgence regarding the team’s potential. And judging by pre-tournament friendly game results, the Black Stars are ready.
Undoubtedly, Ghana will once again lead the charge in Africa’s quest for World Cup glory in far away Brazil.
d Cup is No Pla
For the first time since making their bow on the World Cup stage in 2006, Cote d’Ivoire have been handed a favourable group. In spite of their dire luck with draws, they have never disgraced themselves. The Elephants have only once lost by a margin greater than one goal, despite having faced Argentina, the Netherlands, Brazil and Portugal in their six tournament matches to date.
They kick off against Japan this time, an intricate technical side who are not much physically. A significant size advantage might see the Ivorians nick a goal from a set piece. With Yaya Toure a doubt for the opener though, they will struggle to assert themselves in midfield. Another slim defeat is in the offing.
Colombia are an interesting proposition. The lack of pace in the centre of defence is exploitable and the absence of Radamel Falcao a major blow. This is surprisingly the game in which I expect Cote d’Ivoire to do best: I plump for a win, but with the Elephants’ poor defence, do not discount the possibility of a draw.
They will really sweat against Greece’s meticulous organisation; this is precisely the sort of side the Elephants do not do well against. Sabri Lamouchi’s side will draw this one.
On the whole, a four-point haul is the estimate, but will it be enough to progress?
d Cup is No Pla
People just aren’t talking about Algeria ahead of this World Cup. The North Africans are routinely being written off as one of the weakest (and most boring) teams in the tournament, and are predicted to have little influence on Group H.
I feel they are being horribly underrated and could prove to be one of the shocks of the tournament.
Naturally, people are using the evidence of the last World Cup and the 2013 Cup of Nations to influence their thoughts, but this is a grave mistake.
Over the last four years Vahid Halilhodzic has greatly developed the side, integrating the French-born players who were introduced late in the day ahead of the 2010 tournament and further developing the side’s progressive approach.
The likes of Sofiane Feghouli and Yacine Brahimi are playmakers who, on their day, are capable of lighting up La Liga, while behind them the coach created a hard-working, nicely balanced and, most importantly, well organised team.
He has cultivated a team with options and with dimensions and considering the weak makeup of their group, they can feasibly make the second round for the first time in their history.