South African football journalist Wright Mbongo says Ivory Coast can be Africa's big success story at this year's World Cup.
When the year 2014 started, the only thing that came to my mind was the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil this coming June.
The contest looks to be an exciting one and everybody who is football faithful or expert just like me cannot wait to see 32 teams take on each other - from the group stages to the knockouts and to the final in the space of a month.
The World Cup is the biggest football event in the world, and I will always be delighted to watch it, but it does becomes harder to continue following it after an African side crashes out of the competition. The last time I wrote a feature on 2014 World Cup I was talking about Nigeria being the next African side to progress to the knockout stages and being the first country to reach the semi-finals.
I still put my money on Nigeria to reach the last four, but since I’ve seen the draw for the group stages, I can put my head on the blog that if Nigeria fails their objectives, there is another African nation that can emulate what Ghana and Senegal did between 2002 and 2010 by reaching the quarter-finals.
When the 2014 FIFA World Cup draw commenced, I was hoping Nigeria would avoid some big name nations from Europe, and my dream came true as they are only threatened by Lionel Messi’s Argentina with Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina, a squad that has a one-star player in Edin Dzeko of Manchester City at their disposal. But anything is possible in football and that is why I want to set my eyes on another Africa team that can do us Africans proud in six months time.
Ivory Coast, the side that have never made the knockout stages in the last two editions, can break the record and push themselves far in the competition. They have been pitted in same group with Colombia, Greece, and Asian side Japan in Group C. If the Elephants play their hearts out, they might win the group.
Japan are a good side and they were one of the few teams who didn’t really struggle to book their flight to Brazil but I can see them and Euro 2004 Champions, Greece, pack their bags just after their three group matches. Other individuals might be setting their eyes on Cameroon, who have set a date against hosts Brazil in Group A. The Indomitable Lions have Samuel Eto’o back in the fold but the same player hasn’t impressed me with his new club Chelsea, so I see the West Africans not producing the displays that fans used to see from individuals such as Roger Milla.
Let me look at Algeria, who booked their spot in Brazil by beating 2013 Africa Cup of Nations runner-up Burkina Faso on the away goals rule after a 3-3 stalemate over two-legs. The Arabs were also a surprising package when they made it to the last finals in 2010, and they will again see themselves just making a history by reaching the showpiece twice in a row as I don’t see them finishing at least second above European pair Belgium and Russia. But a win is what I believe they can obtain over their challengers in Group H South Korea.
To complete the five nations that are going to represent African continent, let me study Ghana. The Black Stars were the side to watch in the last two World Cup finals.
Ghana is a good side and they didn’t show mercy in their qualifiers when they humiliated Egypt 7-3 on aggregate. I am proud that they made it to the finals thrice on the trot, but I could not believe my eyes when I saw them grouped with one of the World Cup favourite in Germany and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Group G. Football has lots of upsets and stranger things can happen but to finish above those two teams is a hard nut to crack even the USA are aware of this, and maybe The Yanks will want to settle the score after the Ghanaians beat them in the knockout stages in South Africa.
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