Will the Stars Align for Africa at Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup?
One hopes Qatar 2022 will present a November novelty rather than a Fall failure for African teams in soccer.
Africa had a single representative at its first attendance at the prestigious FIFA world cup. This appearance was in1934 in Italy, and Egypt represented the continent at the gathering of the world’s greatest soccer nations. 5 countries have represented Africa since the France1998 edition, and this time around at the Qatar 2022 edition, the number remains unchanged for Africa’s standard bearers. Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia will carry Africa’s hopes for conquest as the World Cup starts on November 20. But what are the chances of these countries within a crowded field of grandees with horsepower strength in global soccer circles?
In West Germany in 1974, old Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko had the most disastrous outing for Africa, losing 9-0 against the then Yugoslavia. Another African team has not repeated that dishonor, and one hopes Qatar 2022 will present a November novelty rather than a Fall failure for African teams in soccer.
A team with some starchy players, Senegal will prove a daunting task for its opponents. A quarter-finalist at Korea/Japan 2002, the country comes to Qatar on the back of two previous appearances at this renowned sporting feast. Currently, the Teranga lions parade one of the best goalkeepers and strikers in the modern game. Edouard Mendy is a solid rock at the goalpost, while Sadio Mane, in full flight, is a defender’s nightmare. The team’s coach, Aliou Cisse, is a veteran of the Korea/Japan 2002 edition who comes to the tournament with a good history as a player and coach from the continent. Qatar 2022 presents a golden chance for him to make yet another history with this bright side.
Cameroon has a world cup pedigree that is memorable. At Italia 1990, history was made by the indomitable lions of Cameroon as the first African team to make it into the quarter-final stage. Roger Milla was the team’s star in the attack, while goalkeeper Thomas Nkono provided safe gloves back in goal. The country has since gone on to produce greats of the game like Samuel Eto’O, and its coach, Rigobert Song, is versed enough to hold his own at this tournament. This tournament will be Cameroon’s eighth appearance at this global showpiece.
Ghana comes with a history of players with flair and excitement. On the brink of groundbreaking historic success for Africa at South Africa 2010, The Black Stars may make this tournament memorable again. At the 2010 world cup, the country almost surpassed Cameroon’s quarter-final feat at Italia 1990 but lost to Uruguay in the most dramatic of circumstances in the quarter-final. Asamoah Gyan, their messiah striker, had his penalty hit the crossbar in the closing minutes of extra time. Had he scored, Ghana would have crossed into the semis and made history for Africa. In the ensuing penalties, Uruguay won by 4-2.
Qatar 2022 presents a new chance for the Black Stars of Ghana to redeem its place as a team that can move from promise to prominence on the global stage. They can count on the input of players like Thomas Partey of Arsenal FC of England, Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao of Spain, and others who play in leagues around the world. The experience of brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew and the tactical acumen of coach Otto Addo may prove crucial to this Ghanaian team.
Qatar 2022 will be Morocco’s sixth World Cup appearance, having made its first foray at Mexico in 1970. The Atlas Lions of Morocco would return to Mexico in 1986 and make history as the first African team to reach the round of 16. The country has produced one of Africa’s finest, Mustapha Hadji, the 1998 African footballer of the year. The team is in Qatar with Hakim Ziyech of Chelsea of England and Achraf Hakimi of PSG in the French League 1, and other players sourced from top leagues worldwide. Homeboy, Walid Regragui, will be conducting affairs as a coach.
Tunisia is Africa’s first team to record a win at the world cup with a 3-1 triumph over Mexico in Argentina in 1978. Tunisia will be making its sixth appearance at the world cup. The Carthage Eagles have yet to go past the first round in previous outings. Hopes are high that this will mark a turning point for the team. The country has placed faith in the coaching skills of its product, Jalel Kadri, to go past the group stages. But this is not the first time. In 1978, Abdelmajid Chetali failed to go past the first round. Jalel Kadri, their coach, hopes to do better in Qatar with goalkeepers farmed from the local league and other players from both home and abroad.
Remarkably for the continent, all five coaches for the teams are indigenous stars as opposed to past World Cups when African countries had preferences for foreign coaches from Europe and South America. Africa must go beyond flash game performances. Tactical discipline will be crucial, and teams must be organic in defense, midfield, and attack to stand a chance of progression to the knockout stages.
Barring injuries, reckless tackles, and brazen defensive aloofness, Africa can hold its own at this tournament. There is a history we can look to, from Cameroon’s star performance at Italia 90 to Nigeria’s colorful display at USA 94, Senegal’s class act at Korea/Japan 2002, and Ghana’s showpiece display at South Africa 2010. Africa has indeed come of age in World Soccer, displaying some of the finest and brightest stars at the world’s unsurpassed soccer feast, a gathering of icons of classical football styles and modern flair. Africa has the prospect of making enduring marks in Qatar 2022. The five teams representing the continent must take advantage of this chance. Africa’s standard bearers only need to put their shoulders to the wheel when and where it matters most; only then would they stand the chance of finishing high and proud from the Gulf country in December.