How will Africa fare at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil?

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We’re just as curious as most to see what the top sport commentators are saying might or mightn’t happen for Africa’s nations at the tournament.

We hear from author, journalist and respected football commentator, Segun Odegbami, whose commanding performance as an outside right (7) player, was pivotal to Nigeria winning the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations. In 1980, Segun Odegbami captained Nigeria’s Olympic football team to the Moscow Olympics. He was also 1st Runner up; African Footballer of the Year – 1980.

Here’s his look into the crystal ball:

Group A

Cameroon appears in Group A with host nation Brazil, Croatia and Mexico.

Prediction:

This sounds like a group of death to me, but I’m tipping Brazil and Mexico to make it to the knock out stage but although hosts, Brazil, are strong contenders for the trophy,  I do not see them wining it. 

Winning the Confederations Cup has given them a massive psychological boost making their numerous supporters to believe they can repeat the feat next summer.

Croatia have a well established football tradition and must never be underrated. But playing in the humidity of South America during the summer months has always reduced the impact of European teams and that’s probably why none has ever won the World Cup in South America.

Mexico have a good team, very strong and very consistent. The manner of their qualification confirms this. They may join Brazil to emerge from this group.

The Cameroonians have never been this weak in 7 outings at the World Cup. It is hard to see how the team that still depends on the ageing Samuel Eto to deliver the ‘killer punches’ in front of goal will survive beyond the first round.

Group B

There are no African countries in Group B. Spain, the Netherlands, Chile and Australia will battle it out in that group.

Prediction:

I predict a Spain-Netherlands sail-through even though I would not be surprised to see Chile pull a shocker.

Group C

This has top ranked the Ivory Coast contesting the qualification spots with Colombia, Greece and Japan – a rather tricky group, which to me is open to anyone.  My toast for that group is certainly Didier Drogba and BBC 2013 African Footballer of the year Yahya Toure. The Ivory Coast has perhaps the most star-studded African side in the Tourney, but they have also been known to let down their guard and lose to much less glamorous sides. That however could change from the drawing board.

Prediction:

This appears to be a very unpredictable group. Colombia, the fourth best team in the world according to FIFA rankings, look very formidable. South American teams have a big advantage and Colombia will be too strong for featherweight teams like Greece and Japan.

Between Greece and Japan are two countries that always put up a fight but hardly ever go beyond the early rounds. There is nothing to indicate that there would be a difference this time around.

Cote D’Ivoire definitely have a bright chance of coming through this group. They have a very exciting team and experienced campaigners in the Toure brothers, Jevinho, and a still effective Diedre Drogba.

Ultimately, my bet goes to Ivory Coast and Greece sailing through.

Group D

This is another Africa-free group consisting Uruguay, Costa Rica, England and Italy; another tough prospect where I am wagering on Italy and Uruguay to make the round.

Group E

Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras make Group E with no African nation included. This to me is the easy group! France is most likely to make it, but the other team to join them out of the group stages is what is difficult to predict. I would however go for Ecuador.

Group F

This is one most of you will be monitoring closely. African giants Nigeria is bundled together with world-beaters Argentina, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Clearly, Nigeria and Argentina are the favorites in this group. Nigeria is no stranger to the World Cup and this year looks good for the tough side. Individual players like Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike have been at their performance best in the years leading to the tourney. Coach Keshi has been the toast of many a soccer fan! My toast is to see an ‘all-naija’ side; replete with an eba eating coach set out to rule the world and I got my eyes on that Emenike kid!

Prediction:

On paper Nigeria could not have asked for a better and, possibly, an easier group.

Argentina are probably one of the hottest teams going to the championship with the strong possibility of winning it. They will be wary of the Nigerian team even though they have a good record against them at this level. They are very aware of what a Nigerian team that finds its range on a good night can do to any team in the world. Argentina have tasted this poison once before at the Olympics of 1996 when the Nigerians defeated them to win the Gold medal.

Otherwise, they have always found the Eagles a difficult team to defeat in open play. Twice, in 1994 and 2002, they relied on set-pieces that derived from very avoidable poor tackles by the inexperienced Nigerian defense to win. They now know that if all else fails they would exploit Nigeria’s greatest weakness – conceding avoidable fouls in dangerous areas where set-piece specialists can do great harm. In Brazil, however, the Eagles can get away with a draw if they play cautiously and organize their defense well.

Nigeria have never played both Bosnia and Iran at this level of football. They will find Bosnia very hard to handle. They are the country that used to be Yugoslavia, famous for their technical and tactical ability and discipline. That’s what Nigeria fell to in 1998 when they met Denmark in France, a team that plays with great discipline and organization. If Nigeria would lose a match the one against Bosnia would be it. But they can compensate for their tactical deficit with physical strength, power and speed, in which case they can physically overpower Bosnia and emerge from the group.

Iran have too little experience to cope with the mobility of the Nigerian team. Without underrating them they stand little chance of going beyond this group stage.

Finally, the Eagles will fare well against Argentina and possibly create an upset by getting a draw or even winning! They will emerge from the group no matter what happens!

Group G

This is another group attracting a lot of African attention!  Africa’s favorite, Ghana, is in this group. And talking of homegrown coaches, Ghana also parades a full-blooded Ghanaian coach with a side he (Kwasi Appiah) believes is better than the one that made it to the quarters in the last meet. In the group is Germany, Portugal and the USA. It’ll be great to see the Boateng brothers clash again; history repeated as Kevin Prince features for Ghana against a German side that features his brother Jerome.

Prediction:

This undoubtedly is the ‘group of death.’ where sticking out one’s neck could amount to ‘suicide’. It is the most difficult group to predict with the high quality of all the teams.

Germany are favorites in the group considering their recent performances and the growth of the German league, clubs and players in recent years. They have always been contenders at every World Cup. They know how to play and win at this level.

Portugal, whenever they manage to qualify for the World Cup, always show great promise but also always disappoint in the end. It is unlikely anything would be different this time around even with one of the best players in the world, Christiano Ronaldo, in the team. One tree never makes a forest.

USA are very hardworking, but inconsistent and unpredictable from match to match. But they always put up maximum effort. Lack of depth in terms of players has always been the team’s failing. They win difficult matches and lose relatively easy ones. Unfortunately, this time around, there is no easy team in the group. So, they must play every match very well to get through.

Ghana are the team to watch in this group. They are a very capable team having everything in their package – experience, youth, zeal, deep football tradition and winning attitude and spirit. They can narrowly come through this extremely difficult-to-predict group.

Group H

The last group H features Algeria amongst Belgium, Russia and Korea Republic. The Algerian team seems to have lost a lot of shine in recent years. They have yet been known to present stiff opposition and stand a good chance with some tactical arrangement to emerge alongside Belgium in this group.

Prediction:

On paper this looks like the weakest group in the World Cup even though no team can be described as ‘weak’ at this level.

But the reality is that all the 4 teams in the group have relatively small stature in world football and have never gone very far in the World Cup.

On recent form, only Belgium commands great attention. Some people actually have tipped them as outsiders to win the championship. I will not be that generous!

However, in this group anything can happen, but quietly! Not too many eyes will be riveted on the matches, and any of the other three teams has a chance of sneaking through and joining Belgium.

My heart tells me Algeria may not have the ammunition to propel them beyond Russia and Korea Republic, two countries that look more like making up the numbers from Europe and Asia than potential leaders of the group or champions.

So, keep watching this space. Remember though, football has no logic!

All that matters are the goals…goals…goals!!!

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Excerpted from:

Sahara reporters - http://saharareporters.com/

Super Sport – www.supersport.com.

 

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