RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Algeria and Nigeria headed home Tuesday after another five-prong African World Cup challenge came to a disappointing end in Brazil.
While the ‘Desert Foxes’ and ‘Super Eagles’ proved combative last-16 opponents for Germany and France, the lack of a cutting edge in attack led to defeats.
The losses against the former world champions were hardly surprising as African teams have won just 16 of 80 matches against European opponents at the global showpiece.
African football supremo Issa Hayatou echoed the pre-tournament hopes of football followers from Cairo to Cape Town when he wished for “one or even two” African semi-finalists.
But Algeria, Nigeria and Ivory Coast won only once each, Ghana collected a solitary point, and shambolic Cameroon lost all three matches for the second World Cup in succession.
Slack defending, a lack of midfield creativity and below-par set-piece executions were contributing factors to an underwhelming African showing.
There was some cause for celebration, though, as two African teams reached the last-16 for the first time and Nigerian Stephen Keshi became the first African coach to make the knockout phase.
AFP sports looks at some African highlights and lowlights from the World Cup:
THE GOOD …
1. Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama enhanced his growing international reputation even though a flap at a corner gifted a goal to France midfielder Paul Pogba.
2. Top-ranked African side Algeria ditched the overly-cautious system that led to defeat by Belgium and produced some slick counter-attacking football.
3. Ghana showed what they were capable of in a draw against Germany, which was sandwiched between timid losses to the United States and Portugal.
4. African champions Nigeria shrugged off a drab draw with Iran to prove worthy opponents for former world champions Argentina and France.
5. Cameroon gave glimpses during the first half against hosts Brazil of what they might have achieved had they concentrated on football rather than bonuses.
THE BAD …
1. Africans were generally woeful at set-pieces, with corners under or over-hit and free-kicks not carrying the threat posed by European and South American stars.
2. Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah must regret his pre-tournament we-can-be-world-champions quote as it put unnecessary pressure on a mentally brittle squad.
3. After all the hype around outspoken Cameroon captain Samuel Eto’o, he barely threatened Mexico and missed the other two losses through injury.
4. Amateurish Ghana defending allowed American John Brooks to head a late winner that put the ‘Black Stars’ on the back foot after just one game.
5. Nigeria were shocking in a goalless stalemate with Iran, barely posing a threat up front.
… AND THE UGLY
1. So-called Algerian supporters who shone green lasers at the Russia goalkeeper, who claimed he was blinded when conceding an equaliser.
2. Bonus-obsessed Cameroon and Ghana players who seemed more interested in dollars than qualifying for the knockout stage.
3. Kevin-Prince Boateng swore at his coach and Sulley Muntari struck an official and both were booted out of the Ghana camp.
4. Experienced Cameroon midfielder Alex Song was red-carded for striking a Croatian on the back in full view of the referee.
5. Later in the same match, Cameroonian Benoit Assou-Ekotto attempted to head-butt team-mate Benjamin Moukandjo after an attack broke down.