Rio de Janeiro is all set for the month long Fifa World Cup Tournament 2014 to begin. With 32 teams prepared to kick off, 12 stadiums primed to perfection and 64 matches waiting to commence, the capital of Brazil is buzzing with excitement for the opening match between the host country and Croatia at the Arena de São Paulo.
Although being the 2012 African Champions, Zambia just missed out against Japan into qualifying for this year’s World Cup. The African squads that managed to qualify were Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana and Algeria.
Cameroon’s 7th World Cup will begin against Mexico at the Arena das Dunas in Natal on Friday. Being in the same group as Brazil, the likely winner of Group A, this match is an opportunity to pocket 3 precious points in order to get closer to being the runner up in this group. Cameroon has only made it past the group stage once in 1990 where they were one of the eight teams to compete in the quarter finals. Hopefully, with the help of their legendary striker Samuel Eto’o, this will be repeated history for them – having said this, with odds of 1000-1 and being ranked 56th in the Fifa World Rankings, we are not holding our breath.
We have higher hopes for the Côte d’Ivoire team. They lie 23rd in the Fifa Rankings, with odds of winning at 150-1. Captain and top scorer, Galatasaray’s Didier Drogba, is the most expensive Ivorian player in history when, back in 2004, Chelsea FC bought him for a record £24million. The addition of the Ivorian striker meant that Chelsea went on to have an exceptional season resulting in taking home the Premiership Title for the first time in 50 years, with Drogba scoring ten goals. The Manchester City midfielder, Yaya Touré, 31, will be arriving in Rio confident after a hat trick of the African Footballer of the Year awards, two Premier League Titles and a UEFA Champions League winner’s medal. Touré, ranked 24th in Fifa’s Top Players of the World Cup 2014, was also on the Barcelona side when they won the Fifa World Cup in 2010. Côte d’Ivoire has the biggest names in African football, with a high percentage of their players who have played or play in the Premiership. On paper Côte d’Ivoire is the best African team but they often underachieve. Their first match will be against Japan on Saturday at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife.
Nigeria managed to make it to the final sixteen twice in the 90’s but, on their previous two appearances, in 2002 and 2010; they were unable to make it past the group stages. Nevertheless, their coach Stephen Keshi guided the Nigerian team to become the crowned champions at last year’s African Nations Cup. This technically means that Nigeria is the best African team, although on paper they are not as strong as Côte d’Ivoire. Their star players are Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel of Chelsea, Peter Odemwingie (Stoke) and Shola Ameobi (Newcastle). Their goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, has had an outstanding season with Lille, and at age 31 with 89 caps under his belt, he’s sure to be Nigeria’s hero.
Ghana, who are ranked 37th in the Fifa rankings, will be facing strong competition in Group G, having to play Portugal, Germany and the USA. Ghana’s previous two World Cups deemed successful for them against the USA, and in the strong group that they are in this year, beating the USA, will mean that when it comes to their final match against Portugal they’ll have a higher chance of qualifying. Ghana came close to reaching the semis in the 2010 tournament but a handball from Uruguay’s Luis Suarez on the goal line prevented Ghana from scoring, sending the game to a shoot-out where, striker Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty.
Ghana’s midfielders include the two talented veterans, Michael Essien previously of Chelsea and Sulley Muntari alongside Kwadwo Asamoah who is at his prime. Andre Ayew and Kevin-Prince Boateng are both players that should perform well. We will see Boateng play against his brother Jérôme, who plays for Germany, when they meet in the group stages. Ghana will play their first match, against the USA, on June 16th at the Arena das Dunas in Natal.
Algeria has qualified for four World Cups; in 1982, 1986, 2010 and 2014 having never made it past the first round. They are the least likely to do well out of the five African teams that have qualified and have very few well-known players. Their star player would be Sofiane Feghouli of Valencia FC.
No non-South American team has ever won a World Cup held in South America. Spain or Germany potentially could change this this year although Brazil and Argentina have been considered two of the favourites.