As far as memory goes back, African nations have been seen as the underdogs within the FIFA World Cup competition. This year Cameroon, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria all take their place within their respected groups as the tournament kicks off in South America. With the South African world cup legacy left behind in 2010, the question is, have the African sides got what it takes to be a real threat this time around?
Legendary football figure Pelé was once quoted as saying,
“an African team will win the World Cup before the year 2000.”
In hindsight, Pelé’s prediction was somewhat inaccurate and 14 years after the year 2000 the continent are still awaiting their first winner. However promising signs of improvement have been shown within recent years. In 2010 Ghana impressed the neutrals by battling their way through to the Quarter Final stage of the competition, the furthest any African side has ever got at a World Cup. With the whole continent firmly behind them, Ghana crashed out in extremely controversial circumstances against Uruguay.
The game was firmly locked at 1-1, the crowd urging Ghana forward, deep into extra time. A header thundered towards goal after an almighty goalmouth scramble, just as the ball was heading into the top corner, the ever diversive character that is Luis Suárez, leaps towards the ball and claws it away from goal with his hand. The referee naturally sent off the Uruguayan and awarded Ghana a penalty. Asamoah Gyan bravely stepped up to the mark, however his spot kick smashed the top of the crossbar, much to the delight of Liverpool talisman. Ghana then went on to lose in the resulting penalty shootout.
Despite the heartbreak, there was no doubting the outstanding tournament the Ghanaians had had and onlookers were understandably impressed with what the African side had achieved.
As well as Ghana’s achievement at the 2010 World Cup, in recent seasons there has been a flood of African talent grace the Premier League. Yaya Toure has been at the heart of Manchester City’s success over the last 3 seasons, brother Kolo has played for three of England’s biggest clubs in Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool, and who can forget Didier Drogba winning the Champions League for Chelsea.
With a wealth of stars at each African team’s disposal and promising international tournaments under their belts to act as a boost of confidence, maybe Pelé’s prediction is not as far off from reality as some may think. Realistically it would be a major scalp for an African team to go to Brazil and lift the trophy, however it will certainly be an aim of the sides from the continent to equal Ghana’s effort in 2010 and possibly go even further.
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