Friday, November 23, 2007

When Will Africa Win a World Cup?

This, an interesting, thought-provoking article from the BBC about Africa's expectations regarding the World Cup.

Pundits have long said it was a mere matter of time before an African nation lifted the World Cup trophy. But so far, expectations haven't been met.

No one's really sure why. Maybe the infrastructure isn't there. Maybe the players don't gel well when they come together in a huge international tournament. Maybe they're just not good enough at the moment.

It's a wonderful topic of debate. What do you think?

Read the article and post your comments.

Pele's prediction that an African team would win the World Cup before the end of the last millennium never materialised.

And recent experience has dampened expectations of African glory as the continent prepares to host the tournament for the first time.

"We need to lift the expectations but maybe 2010 is too early... Maybe in Brazil," said France's World Cup winning captain Marcel Desailly.

Cameroon's progress to the quarter-finals of the 1990 tournament in Italy raised hopes that Africa would be the next force in world football.

However, only one team, Ghana, managed to get past the first round last year in Germany.

The semi-finals still remain unchartered territory for African countries.

Desailly, who was himself born in Ghana, believes they are likely to remain so when South Africa hosts the world's finest in three year's time.

"The tournament in South Africa? It will not change anything," Desailly said ahead of this weekend's draw for the qualifying rounds.

"I am not happy at all about the performances of the African teams since the US in '94."

That was when Nigeria knocked Argentina out in the first round before taking eventual finalists Italy into extra time."

Carlos Alberto Parreira, who coached Brazil to victory in 1994 and is now in charge of South Africa, believes Africa will put up a better showing with so many players now turning out regularly in Europe's top leagues.

However, he acknowledges the continent's teams face a huge challenge.

"I believe this time, when you see the African players in Europe, in the big teams, they will do well. I am sure they will raise their performance," Parreira said.

"If we had one or two African countries reach the quarter-finals, it would be a huge success. If it was the semi-finals, it would be fantastic.

"We have to raise the barrier ... but it's very difficult.

"For three months they play (in Europe), then suddenly they've only got two days before a match. That's difficult for the team and for the coach."

Parreira said that inexperience was less of an excuse than in the past.

"I don't think it's inexperience. They were naive in 1986 and 90. Then they had the skills and technique but they were naive," added the Brazilian who has also coached Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates in the finals.

"Now 80 percent of some of the squads' players are in the big leagues."

Lucas Radebe, a former captain of South Africa and fallen English giants Leeds United, said teams in the past had been intimidated by the whole experience of playing in the world's most popular sporting event.

"The stage is so huge, you are playing against massive teams and you get stage fright," he explained.

However Radebe said such an excuse would no longer wash.

"We have been gaining that experience. There are no excuses, we have got the players," he added.

While individual African players may have benefited from playing abroad, their absence has undermined the quality and development of the local leagues.

Desailly said that too many African players were being shipped off to Europe at too early an age and found themselves surplus to requirements and greater emphasis should be placed on developing players at home.

He said: "We have to increase the level of the leagues in Africa."

"There are some players who should be outside of the country, they should be staying inside as when they arrive in Europe they find they are second choice."

Radebe, however, said there was no reason to be too despondent.

He believes African football was definitely on the upturn, pinpointing the emergence of countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

"The continent is improving in terms of quality. This is the time to showcase that talent, to show them that we can compete."

An African team's qualification to the final "would electrify the continent," he added.

No comments: