Now that every team has played in the 2014 World Cup tournament, arguably the most impressive team has been Germany after they defeated Portugal 4-0 without having to exert maximum power. However, the Ivory Coast apart, the African challenge seems to be weaker than anticipated which suggests that the much vaunted idea of a team from Africa winning the World Cup may not happen for some considerable time.
When Cameroon were defeated 3-2 by England in the1990 World Cup Quarter-Final, they demonstrated the flair and energy which seemed to epitomise African football. It was at that stage when it was forecasted that a team from the continent would lift the trophy sooner rather than later. Since then, there have been useful performances from African teams but no real threat to the established order.
During the 2014 tournament, most African teams appear to lack organisation and a degree of self-belief with only Ivory Coast actually winning a match, courtesy of veteran Didier Drogba. After appearing as a second half substitute he helped overturn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory against Japan.
Many of the African teams in this competition contain players accustomed to life in the European leagues and it has been argued that their natural way of playing football has been somewhat diminished by the need to achieve results. The Cameroon team of 1990 comprised many players for whom playing in Europe was just a dream but since that success, the drift of personnel from the African continent has intensified with several being the recipients of lucrative contracts.
The Cameroon team which lost to1-0 to Mexico in their opening match showed very little of the exciting flair of their predecessors and had been beset by internal disputes regarding bonus payments. Similarly, Nigeria and Ghana failed to demonstrate any of the necessary qualities which suggest that they could venture further than the group stage whereas Algeria were content with an ultra-defensive formation as they tried unsuccessfully to thwart a resolute Belgian team.
Although Ivory Coast may yet qualify for the knock-out phase, the ultimate retirement of Drogba casts doubts on their potential for future tournaments despite a decent pool of players at the their disposal. It is a shame that the national teams of Africa have failed to sustain the anticipated progress with Brazil, Argentina and the strong European teams once again expected to be at the forefront of the challenge to win the 2014 World Cup.
From what has been witnessed to date, Germany and the Netherlands have produced the goods when it has mattered while Brazil and Argentina have displayed signs of nerves as the weight of expectancy resides on their respective shoulders.
The tournament is still in its infancy but there is still the chance of a non-South American team winning in that continent for the first time. Just don’t expect that team to originate from Africa.