Will an African team ever win the world cup?

by James Cartwright

Following the end of the African Cup of Nations 2012 which was won by Zambia in a dramatic penalty shootout it got me wondering, can an African team ever win the World Cup?

The last tournament was the biggest chance for a side to win the World Cup with it being on Africa soil in South Africa. And Africa came close to reaching the Semi Finals for the first time in their history, Ghana flying the flag for the continent reaching the Quarter Final against Uruguay.

Ghana came within a whisker away of reaching the semi final as Asamoah Gyan’s last minute penalty crashed off the crossbar to give the South American side a lifeline. The Uruguayans took it to penalties, Sebastian Abreu stepping up to slot past Richard Kingson and again inflict heartbreak on the continent.

African teams have always created drama for us over the years, who could forget Papa Bouba Diop scoring the opening goal of the 2002 World Cup to shock the footballing world by beating the holders France, and Roger Milla’s famous corner flag celebrations during Italia 1990 in which Cameroon reached the quarter finals.  But the bottom line is the African sides have not been good enough and this was shown in the 2010 World Cup with only one side reaching the last 16 of the competition. Although most of them came close, Ivory Coast were always dealt a difficult task, drawing the group of death in Group F playing Portugal and Brazil, and they lost out by point. Nigeria came close to making it through with lots of their fans wondering what if Yakubu had made a connection when the ball had been played to him to level with with South Korean. They did manage to find an equalizer but if Yakubu took the chance it would have won the game for them .However the game ended 2-2 and Nigeria were left to finish bottom of Group B.

Africa has been showcased across the European Leagues with the likes of Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana boasting an array of talent. The main problem for African football however has been coaching, with the white coaches getting preference over black coaches. This has caused difficulty for African coaching to progress. African coaches have never been trusted, with South Africa, Nigeria and Ivory Coast making switches to foreign coaches prior to the tournament. All but Algeria had foreign coaches in the 2010 tournament, raising the question of what is wrong with the African coaches?

African sides have also put too much emphasis on star players rather than trying to develop the game for a wide range of players. Take the teams of 2010 World Cup for example. Ivory Coast relied heavily on their captain, Didier Drogba. Cameroon relied on star player, Samuel Eto’o, to take them forward and Ghana even rested the whole continent’s hopes on Asamoah Gyan’s shoulders. And this was again showcased at the recent African Cup of Nations, Senegal relied too heavily on their big names such as Demba Ba and N’Diaye to help them win their first African title before dropping embarrassingly out at the group stages by finishing bottom of group A.

It will be a while till an African team wins the World Cup but each tournament they are progressing. However if the situation with African coaches and the lack of development in the lower levels of the game, Africa will fail to see a first ever World Cup success.

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