African teams lick wounds after faltering start to World Cup
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Ivory Coast laboured to a precious win in their World Cup opener, but African teams had little else to draw comfort from after a lackluster start to the World Cup.
Of the five African teams taking part in the tournament, Didier Drogba’s Ivorian “Elephants” were the only ones to pick up three points from their first match.
But even their performance was, at best, patchy.
Ivory Coast trailed Japan – arguably the weakest team in Group C – for much of the game, until Drogba’s introduction on the hour mark inspired them to a hard-fought 2-1 win.
The Ivorians remain the most likely African squad to reach the knock-out stages, though they will have to raise their game for their next fixtures against Colombia and Greece.
For the other four teams, the forecast is decidedly less optimistic.
The “Indomitable Lions” of Cameroon have got off to yet another poor start, slipping to a 1-0 defeat against Mexico in their opening game.
Cameroon have been consistently underwhelming ever since their famous run to the quarter-finals at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
And judging by their flat performance on Friday, it is unlikely they will secure the necessary wins against Croatia and Brazil to qualify from Group A.
Over in Group F, African champions Nigeria failed to overcome a stubborn Iranian side in the tournament’s first goalless draw.
The Nigerian “Super Eagles” had been the bookies’ favourites to carry African hopes, but they looked toothless and uninspired against a well-organised team led by Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz.
Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel has vowed to make amends over Nigeria’s next two games.
But with a dangerous looking Bosnian side lined up next, followed by Leo Messi’s Argentina, the Eagles will know they have already blown their best chance of a win.
Desert Foxes outfoxed
There was more disappointment in Group G, where the “Black Stars” of Ghana conceded a 2-1 defeat against the USA.
True to form, Ghana were brilliant at times and yet frustratingly erratic in defence.it
As with Nigeria, the opening game was supposed to be the Black Stars’ easiest in an otherwise daunting group.
Instead, the 2010 quarter-finalists were left empty-handed ahead of two grim ties against hot favourites Germany and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
The last African team to enter the tournament, Algeria also tasted defeated in their opening Group H game against Belgium (2-1).
It was a heartbreaking loss for the “Desert Foxes”, who had led for much of the game.
But Algeria should draw confidence from their tactical acumen and tenacious defending against the highly-rated Belgians as they prepare to face South Korea and Russia, neither of which looked particularly impressive during their 1-1 draw on Tuesday.
If they can step up their attacking game, the “Desert Foxes” may find this is their best chance of qualifying for the knockout stages since 1982, when West Germany and Austria plotted Algeria’s downfall in a match forever known as the “Shame of Gijon”.
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