Russia 2018: Africa set to rule the world Featured
13 Jun

Russia 2018: Africa set to rule the world

On June 14, the 21st edition of the prestigious FIFA World Cup will kick off in Russia amid pomp and pageantry. Thirty-two nations will compete for the ultimate prize. The competition has been in existence since 1930 with Uruguay winning the maiden edition.
 
Four years ago, a total of 3.2 billion people around the world watched the World Cup. That made it the most watched TV event of the 21 st century to date. This summer’s tournament in Russia is projected to reach around 3.5 billion people, setting a new precedent not just for football, but for sport in general. And for four weeks, the watching world will follow with keen interest the victories and defeats, joys and despair of the finalists, who have been divided into eight groups.
 
From 1930 till date, fourteen African countries have represented the continent on the Copa Mundial with Egypt being the first to participate in the World Cup in 1934. Tunisia became the first African country to win a game at the World Cup by beating Mexico 3-1 in 1978 in Argentina. Morocco became the first African country to progress beyond the first round in 1986 in Spain. Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana are the only African countries to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1990, 2002 and 2010 respectively. This year, the five African countries to participate in the mundial are; Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia.
 
Kickgh.com thus attempts to throw the searchlight on the five African participating teams and give a straight-from- the-shoulder analysis of their chances in the greatest soccer fiesta.
 
NIGERIA
 
Coach: Gernot Rohr
Joined Fifa: 1960
Nickname: Super Eagles
Previous World Cup Appearances; 1994, 1998,2002,2010,2014
Pitched alongside Cameroon, Zambia and Algeria in the group stage, many wrote off Nigeria’s chances of making it to Russia owing to the pedigree of the oppositions. But it happened to be a walk in the park for Gernot Rohr’s men who made it to their sixth Fifa World Cup ever in amassing fashion. In six appearances, they were unbeaten with four wins and two draws- scoring 12 goals and conceding just four times. Isn’t that incredible? The world lives to see if they can replicate such fine form on the world stage against Argentina, Iceland and Croatia.
 
Key Player: Walter Ndidi
Rohr has an assemblage of young budding talents at his disposal. The likes of Kelechi Iheanacho,Alex Iwobi, Ola Aina, Victor Ighalo et al are all players who can champion the German’s cause but one player who would be the fulcrum of this Super Eagles team is Leicester City’s unflappable Walter Ndidi. The volante has impressed since joining the English outfit from Genk. His defensive traits have always stuck out and would be the engine to push Nigeria forward in the competition.
 
TUNISIA
 
Coach: Nabil Maaloul
Joined Fifa: 1960
Nickname: Carthage Eagles
Previous World Cup Appearances: 1978,1998,2002,2006
This will be the fifth time the North Africans will be gracing the world stage to exhibit their prowess. They have never played beyond the group stages in all four appearances at the World Cup but in Nabil Maaloul, they have a manager who can ensure at least a round of 16 berth. Previuosly he was assistant to Roger Lemere when the Carthage Eagles won the African Nations Cup in 2004. They qualified without a loss from the group, won 4 and drew the rest, managed 14 points, scored 11 and conceded 4 in six games.
 
Key Player: Wahbi Khazri
 
The Sunderland who was loaned to Rennes last season will be the Carthage Eagles’ top marksman. A talismanic figure for his nation, Kazri scored nine goals in 24 Ligue 1 appearances, playing in a variety of attacking options.
 
SENEGAL
 
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Joined Fifa: 1962
Nickname: Teranga Lions
Previous World Cup Appearances: 2002
This will be their second appearance. They shocked the football world in their maiden appearance in 2002 when they beat the then defending champions, France by a lone goal. The current coach of the team Aliou Cisse was part of that team that meted that painful punishment to the Europeans. With a galaxy of stars in his fold, one will be mistaken to rule out the West Africans. They have the wherewithal to upset any country in the world and Japan,Columbia and Poland are no exception.
 
Key Player: Sadio Mane
 
Mane has been in fantastic form for the Liverpool. Currently the second best player on the continent only behind fellow club team-mate Mohammed Sallah, Mane was involved in both goals as Senegal booked their place at the finals with a 2-0 win against South Africa in November 2017. Mane can play as a number 9 or operate as a false 9. His intelligence with space and eye for a pass also make an attractive option playing behind a striker or from the flanks.
 
EGYPT
 
Coach: Hector Cuper
Joined Fifa: 1923
Nickname: Pharoahs
Previous World Cup Appearances:1934, 1990
The watching world expects nothing short of a spectacular performance from Egypt. They are the first African side to play in the world cup but have not been dominant in terms of appearances. This will be third finals but are blessed to have an experienced Hector Cuper and reigning African footballer of the year in their fold. Underrate them at your own peril.
 
Key Player: Mohammed Salah
 
Arguably one of the best players in the world currently, Mohammed Sallah’s debut season for Liverpool has been nothing short of a success. He was the league’s highest top scorer and was the reason behind Liverpool’s successful run of form in the Champions League. Liverpool’s loss to Real Madrid could partly be attributed to the injury suffered by Sallah. He’s renowned for his clever movement, where he drifts into pockets of space from a false 9 role to create angles for teammates.
 
MOROCCO
 
Coach: Herve Renard
Joined Fifa: 1960
Nickname: Atlas Lions
Previous World Cup Appearances: 1970,1986,1994, 1998
They may not be the bookmakers’ favourite to advance from a group that has former world champions Spain, reigning European champions Portugal and Iran but this is a Moroccan side that has Munir Mohand Mohamedi who was recently commended by Fifa as one of the best goalkeepers in Africa, their captain, Mehdi Benatia was also ranked by the world football governing body as the best defender on the continent. Morocco emerged as the team with the best defence in the world. While it scored 11 goals in 6 games, the Atlas Lions did not concede a single goal. The underdog badge on them could see them thrive in the face of adversities and shock the watching world.
 
Key Player: Mehdi Benatia
 
The 31-year-old Juventus defender is faced with an arduous task of advancing from a tough group. His biggest strength is his mentality. What the defender lacks in speed, he makes up for in calmness and assuredness in the box, and his maturity on the pitch is very commending. Technically astute, Benatia has a strong right foot and his ability on the ball enables him to push on from behind the midfield. His aerial presence and strength helps him command the box.
 
By: Godfred Budu Yeboah
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