African Teams Preview Part TwoApril 21, 2010
In our part one of the African teams preview, we took a look at Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria, the three teams that are generally considered the stronger African squads. This time around, we’ll look into the other three teams that are more underrated than the rest but still pose competitive threats in South Africa.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will always be relevant in international soccer discussion because one man, Samuel Eto’o. The diminutive striker that is feared throughout Europe for his sprinter’s speed, deadly finishing, free kick ability, and unparalleled arrogance, Eto’o is the most important player for Cameroon by far. Simply said, the team’s chances of making it out of group E fall on Eto’o’s shoulders. Netherlands, the group E powerhouse, will more than likely sweep through the group leaving Cameroon battling it out with Japan and Denmark to qualify for the knockout phases. With the help of talented young players Alexander Song of Arsenal, and Jean Makoun of Olympique Lyonnais, Cameroon will make a strong challenge for relevancy in South Africa. Here’s a look at Makoun’s recent wonder goal that sunk Real Madrid’s Champions League dreams.
The South African national team will have the obvious advantage of playing at home throughout the entire tournament. Judging by their performance in last summer’s Confederations cup, this is an advantage that bodes very well for South African fans. Led by Everton’s Steven Pienaar, South Africa have assembled a squad of players that primarily play in the local South African leagues. On paper, this automatically sounds as if the players do not have enough big game experience, however, a high profile star such as Pienaar may be enough to lead the younger, less experienced players into every game without fear. This is exactly the way that the team played last summer as they reached the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup, nearly beating Spain in the bronze medal game after a Katlego Mphela free kick that caused mass hysteria of excitement throughout the country. In the end, the Spaniards persevered and eventually won the tournament but the South Africans were able to announce their legitimacy on the World stage. They will have to battle it out with the likes of Mexico, Uruguay and France in what looks like the 2nd hardest group in the tournament. The host nation of the World Cup has made the quarter-finals in the last three World Cups and it remains to be seen if South Africa can match this feat. Here’s a look at Mphela’s smashing free kick that stopped the heartbeat of the nation.
Algeria slipped into the World Cup after a controversial play-off win over Egypt that saw the Egyptian bus pelted with rocks by Algerian fans as the visitors approached the stadium for the game. The Egyptians would go on to play the game but loss in a shocking defeat. What was even more bizarre was the strength of Egypt’s squad in the African Cup of Nations two months later, which saw the Pharaohs stomp through the competition and defeat Ghana in the finals. At this point, Egypt holds the title as the best team in Africa yet for a consecutive World Cup, will be absent. That said, the Algerians battled hard to qualify and their team epitomizes cohesion and unity. With no big names or well known players on the European club stage, Algeria draws its strength from the character within the team that plays as a whole, not as individual players. The country has long had it’s most talented players taken by the French national team who are historically more successful than Algeria. Legends such as Zinedine Zidane are of Algerian descent but chose to play in France instead. Regardless, the Algerian team work and play together very well. They also are blessed with being in the easiest group in the tournament, Group C alongside England, the United States, and Slovenia. England are the favorites to win the group but after that it is a toss up. The U.S are riddled with injuries at the moment and Slovenia are a similar team to Algeria; overachievers who most think are lucky to have qualified. We’ll just have to see if Algeria can prove their worth this summer.