Ivory Coast hold Africa’s hopes

2014-06-13 11:13
Gavin Hunt (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Owing to the heat and humidity in Brazil, supporters should expect the pace of the game to be a bit slower.

However, that said, it promises to be an exciting tournament at the spiritual home of football and I’m tipping one of the South American sides to ultimately prevail.

World Cups are always special. My all-time favourite is the 1966 tournament when England went on to win the World Cup by beating West Germany in the final.

Below, I analyse the five African sides in Brazil and discuss their strengths, weaknesses and overall chances...

Cameroon

The indomitable Lions are an ageing side and are led by striker Samuel Eto’o, 33, who I believe can be both good and bad for the team – on-field he is a moody player. Off-field, he was at the forefront of the bonus payment scandal and, while it won’t affect the side’s chances in Brazil, I believe it’s clear that Eto’o runs that team inside-out. The Cameroonians are in a tough group alongside hosts Brazil, Croatia and Mexico and, honestly speaking, I don’t see them advancing. My picks to progress from Group A will be Brazil and Croatia.

Ivory Coast

Among the African sides, The Elephants have the easiest group – Colombia, Greece and Japan. For a golden generation of players this World Cup signifies their final swansong. Both Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba will play a big part in their campaign as will tricky winger Gervinho. Drogba is the best striker I’ve seen in a long time, while Toure is a world-class player. However, the latter plays within his comfort zone. At times, I don’t think he works hard enough. He possesses such a great change of pace, but doesn’t use it often enough. In summation, it’s rare for an African side to have been together as a group for such a long time and this familiarity may well work in their favour.

Nigeria

In truth, I don’t think Stephen Keshi knows his best starting XI. While Keshi has stuck to his guns, refused to buckle under pressure and did a great job winning the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, I think the West Africans will do well to advance from Group F. The group includes Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran, whom I believe will be no push-overs. The Super Eagles possess a tight-knit group of players, but are simply not good enough defensively – they don’t have enough legs at centre-half to keep clean-sheets. For me, the most underrated player in their side is midfielder John Obi Mikel, 27, who is a really solid and efficient footballer.

Ghana

The Black Stars are a really good outfit, but they’ve been drawn in the group of death which includes Germany, Portugal and USA. Therefore, I simply can’t see them advancing to the next round. It’s a pity, because from an African perspective, I believe they are the best, most complete side in Brazil. However, their goalkeeper could be a liability, like most shot-stoppers in African sides for that matter. We certainly don’t produce the best goalkeepers on this continent. I believe the root of the problem is that in African football there is not enough crossing and wide wing play in the game to hone our goalkeeper’s finer skills.

Algeria

The Desert Foxes, drawn in Group H, open their campaign against Belgium. I believe this match will be a baptism of fire for the Africans. Don’t get me wrong, Algerian is by no means a bad side, but they see themselves in a very tough group which also includes Russia and South Korea. The North Africans are very structured and disciplined in approach and play more like a European team than an African one. Cameroon and Nigeria, for example, are looser in terms of their structure. Watch how Algeria will play without frills and look to get the ball forward quicker. For them, team effort will be more important than individual flair.

Gavin Hunt won three consecutive PSL championships at SuperSport United. He currently coaches Bidvest Wits.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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