JOHANNESBURG – It is now confirmed that Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast will represent the African continent at next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
These are the very same countries that were the continent’s ambassadors at the 2010 Fifa World Cup that took place here in Mzansi.
Nigeria completed a 4-1 aggregate win over rising superpower Ethiopia who they beat 2-1 in Addis Ababa and completed the job in the coastal town of Calabar with a comfortable 2-0 win.
Ghana, who massacred Egypt 6-1 in the first leg, progressed through 7-3 on aggregate despite losing 2-1 in Cairo in the second leg.
Ivory Coast overcame neighbours Senegal 4-2 on aggregate.
Despite the two teams drawing 1-1 in neutral Morocco, the tie was settled in the first leg in which the Senegalese scored a late consolation goal when they were 3-0 down.
Cameroon whose football has been bedevilled by in-fighting walloped Tunisia 4-1 in Yaoundé after the two teams had played to a goalless draw in the first leg.
Algeria completed the pack when the Burkinabe conceded a fatuous first half goal, for the Desert Foxes to go through on away goals rule after the two legs had ended 4-4 on aggregate.
Following the verification of the five teams, debate has already started on who will be Africa’s brightest prospect of going furthest in the World Cup where reaching the quarter-finals has been Africa’s best achievement so far.
There is great hope this time around although if there is failure again, people will point at Africa’s five slots, as opposed say to Europe which has 13, as an issue which needs to be revisited.
Nigeria, who won the Africa Cup of Nations in style this year and completed a dominant season with a World Cup qualification are looking in ominous form.
The Super Eagles are really looking imperious and their draw against Italy confirmed their favourite status from Africa.
They are a good bet to stake a claim as the best side on the continent.
We all hope the infighting which has plagued some of their previous campaigns is sorted out long before they leave for South America.
They have a hungry team eager to leave a lasting impression at the sport’s biggest stage.
Ghana, just like their big neighbours are also enjoying a purple patch and would want to go one up from the quarter-final heart-break they suffered in 2010 when a last minute penalty miss proved their undoing.
The Ghanaians have probably the most balanced side of the five African countries.
Ivory Coast have always failed to justify their big name status and with an ageing side, might once again not progress beyond the second round.
Even their 4-2 aggregate win over Senegal was not that convincing though critics will argue, they did what they were supposed to do.
Cameroon, with the divisive Samuel E’to back in the team, doesn’t seem the Indomitable Lions anymore. Nothing can be read from defeating an out of sorts’ Tunisian side which went into the play off via a default after Cape Verde was disqualified for using a defaulter.
Algeria also seem to be going to Brazil to make up the numbers.
The North Africans don’t have outstanding superstars that can tilt the match in their favour.
Seven months however, is a long period for any team to make further progress with regards to beefing up the squad.
The question however is, will 2014 be the year for Africa to finally announce their long awaited arrival at the world stage?
Let’s wait and see whether the great Pele’s prediction will come to fruition.
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