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African Teams Preview Part One

March 24, 2010

This summer will mark the first time that the FIFA World Cup will be played on African soil. In recent years, many African teams have improved their performances on the international stage. This summer, the African national teams will have more support and desire than ever as they compete in their home continent. Let’s take a look at the three teams from West Africa.

The Black Stars of Ghana

The Black Stars carry the pride of Kwame Nkrumah and Marcus Garvey in their team name and hope to make their spirits proud. Ghana, the first African nation to gain independence from colonization, is now one of the best teams in Africa. Led by Chelsea superstar midfielder Michael Essien, the Black Stars have a young team loaded with talent. With just the right amount of leaders and experience, the Black Stars have big names like Essien, Inter Milan’s Sulley Muntari, and team captain Stephen Appiah, to lead up and coming players like Asamoah Gyan. Team chemistry, athleticism, and confidence will go a long way for Ghana this summer. Drawn into a very difficult group D with Germany, Austrailia and Serbia, Ghana will have to control the ball with their formidable midfield and capitalize on scoring opportunities to advance into the knockout rounds.

Didier Drogba of Côte d'Ivoire

Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana’s West African neighbors have the African team with the most name recognition. Most writers and critics consider star striker Didier Drogba as one of the top 5 strikers in the world.

Drogba, a teammate of Ghana’s Michael Essien at Chelsea, is tall, muscular, fast, and has incredible shooting ability in both legs. His only negative is his tendency to dive and play-act fouls, something that he hasn’t grown out of as his career has progressed. Alongside Drogba is Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou, a versatile forward who has great talent but is inconsistent. The Elephants have a strong midfield trio of Yaya Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, and Didier Zokora, all who play for clubs that compete in the UEFA Champions League. In defense, the Ivorians have Yaya Toure’s older brother, Kolo, a strong centre back who will anchor the defense. The talent certainly is there for the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire but it all remains to be seen how they will put it together this summer. The squad recently fired their head coach after a disappointing performance in the African Cup of Nations. They are rumored to be close to reaching a deal with Sven Goran-Eriksson, the famous Swedish coach who took England to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and the 2004 European championship. Eriksson will have his work out for him if he takes the post because the Elephants are in the “group of death” with Brazil, Portugal and North Korea. This is considered by experts the most competitive group in the tournament. They have a chance to make the knockout rounds; they just need to play their best soccer.

Super Eagle Obafemi Martins

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are a team that can be described in one word: inconsistent. The team has a lot of raw talent in players like Obafemi Martins of Wolfsburg FC, Yakubu of Everton FC, and John Obi Mikel of Chelsea.

The big names however have not translated into cohesion and team ability. The strike partnership that could exist between Martins and Yakubu has historically underperformed. The blame can be put on the players but in this case it seems to be more of inadequate managing by the coaching staff that is unable to inspire and motivate the players. Nigeria is another team that has a tough group with Argentina, Greece and South Korea. The Super Eagles have some players that can change a game in the blink of an eye but they will need more team chemistry and tactics to get of the group stage instead of relying on natural talent.

Some international fans were asked who they felt was the strongest African team.

Jai, a London, England based student said, “You would automatically think Ivory Coast will do well. But seeing as how they have the toughest group (including Brazil, and Portugal) you have to think realistically. So unfortunately, the torch has to be passed down to Ghana. They have a relatively easy group stage (with the only main threat being Germany). Both Muntari and Essien have been playing top club football for a while now and they need to be role models for the rest of the squad.”

Avery, a Liverpool supporter living in Hawaii believes Cote d’Ivoire are the best African team.

“(Cote d’Ivoire) have the strongest African team right now with Drogba, Kalou, the Toure’s,and Eboue. All are class players. Drogba is close to top form at the moment, and if he continues, his form he will be a force to be reckoned with in South Africa.”

Both Jai and Avery make solid points that outline the top European club players from Ghana and Ivory Coast being their key to victory. Both teams will be making some noise this summer. Time will tell  who makes the biggest impact.

Part Two will feature Cameroon, South Africa, and Algeria!

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