|World Cup 2002 Review
A closer look at the African results
5. South Africa
7. Tendencies: Facts and
Africa seem the losers of
the 2002 World Cup, and a trend that seems to have been visible during
the 90s has been confirmed.
African teams are no riddle
anymore to their counterparts. More organisation means also better predictability,
more familiar football logics of the opponency, less chaos in positive
and negative interpretation.
The questions African teams
pose to their opponents nowadays are not strange anymore, the times of
altering 1:0's and 0:4's seem replaced by the times of 1:1's and 0:2's.
No wonder, the African top
players play at Europe as their counterparts on World Cup level, but they
are found only in small number at the true club giants, where other nationalities
have far more players.
The least qualificants for
the second round, the worst intercontinental record, and the sole three
wins in 15 games of the first round coming by a narrow 1:0.
Of course things have to
be seen more differenciated and each of the 5 starters in 2002 have their
own individual story, their own individual reasons for failure (or relative
Until 2002 Africa could
hide behind the weakness of the Asian teams, but now Africa is the only
continent (apart from Oceania) left that has never seen a team in a World
(In reality Africa indeed
slightly improved from 1998 but it does not look good enough because the
other small confederations improved more).
Of course Africa is the
only continent (apart from Oceania) who has not had a World Cup staged
Of course the differences
between all teams have narrowed and so little things determine the outcome.
But those little things,
those 'if only.. ''s are not untypical to speak against the African starters.
From goalkeeping to organisation
errors, from destabilisation in the build up to the tournament to lack
Inconsistency (on several
levels) could be a general term but of course simplifies too much.
Lets look at the five from
Tunisia - Russia 0:2, Tunisia
- Belgium 1:1, Tunisia - Japan 0:2
Tunisia were there because
they are the most stabile, best organised, smart footballers and management
when it concerns the task to fight through the arduousnesses of the African
Very talented indeed, but
no way more gifted than their counterparts in Ghana or Côte d'Ivoire.
When it comes to the World
Cup they lack confidence and a superior talent which would be necassery
to beat opponents which are on the same organisaton level now.
This time they even had
lost their stability in management around the team. Several coaching changes
had shaken the squad and a Nations Cup flop in a very difficult group had
shattered their confidence.
The new Tunisian coaches
seemed to have done good job because Tunisa played relatively well for
three halfs against Russia and Belgium before the team suddenly stopped
attacking and changed the style of playing mysteriously.
Before that only a goalkeeping
error and the usual difficulties in converting chances into goals had prevented
a greater surprise and the North Africans had gathered a lot of sympathies.
But beginning with the second
half of the Belgium game, Tunisia were hardly seen in front of their opponents
goals anymore (apart from some too late attacks in both matches, against
Belgium and Japan).
Consequently they left an
eventual impression of harmlessness and finished the second time after
1998 as the worst African starters and an image of an no impact team.
But with the idea of hiding
in a shell against implicated superior opponents and landing a lucky punch
by a counter attack Tunisia will never get very far in a tournament on
such a level, unless a tournament with even more hot conditions might help
Nigeria - Argentina 0:1,
Nigeria - Sweden 1:2, Nigeria - England 0:0
Nigeria have been one of
three African teams who did not wait since successful qualification to
turn their team upside down and arrive with diffent coaching, different
philosophy, different players etc.
No wonder the former African
giants could not win anything in a group that had been labelled 'group
of death' but that was not that unwinnable that a modest football power
like Sweden could not win it.
Here we have hit the keyword:
Sweden, disappointing failures at Euro 2000, stick to their unhysterical
consistent built up and displayed a very positive teamwork and played 4
very fine matches.
Now Nigeria did not bad,
but if African superpowers arrive at the World Cup to lose in dignity,
gifted only a grace point by England (who had to play for a 0:0 draw to
ensure qualification) there is something wrong.
But not everything was bad,
maybe Nigeria should try to stick with the current setup. What is needed
more than everything else is consistency.
What Nigeria needs is a
goalkeeper above average. Shoronmu did extremely well in saves on the line
but he kicked the ball to the Swedish leading to their winning penalty
and he allowed a good number of corners fly around his nose to the second
goalpost before eventually Batistuta converted one for the winner for Argentina
in the first match.
Anyway it is not his fault
that Nigeria did not get far.
It is like so many players
stated in interviews: the consequence of years of politics in and a round
the team, of inconsistency and bad preperations. Improvisation can not
make up for everything. Not at the World Cup level.
Cameroon - Ireland 1:1, Cameroon
- Saudi Arabia 1:0, Cameroon - Germany 0:2
Cameroon had their World
Cup final against Germany and they lost it. Drawn in a very difficult group
this was the crunch match for both on the way to the final.
It would have all been easier,
... Cameroon had not been
tired against Ireland in the second half after having determined the match
before. In the end they were lucky not to lose.
... Ireland had not equalised
in the last minute against Germany
... Cameroon had converted
one more of the big early chances against Ireland and Germany and had been
more lucky with refereeing in the Saudi Arabia match and the goalpost in
the Germany match.
Cameroon did not have the
same luck as Senegal (or especially at the 2000 Olympics) but the factor
that they only had advanced with a good deal of overaverage luck suggests
they had not been in form as necessary.
One reason has been their
travelling odysee to Japan, a trip that was initially halted by a row over
promised but not made payments and then made further difficult by flight
Long journeys within Japan
further tired the players and deprived them of the most important physical
In the Ireland match they
did not get into any challenges in the second half and so nearly lost a
match that they had not decided before.
Only two goals in three
games does not speak very good of their attack and against Saudi Arabia
Cameroon (as expected) had the most problems of the three superior teams
scoring because of the African playing style was more familiar and easier
to defend against for the Saudi Arabians.
Against Germany they could
not answer the question how to play against a now tactically completely
changed German team after being reduced to 10. It was the tactical flexibility
and smartness that brought the Germans to the final.
Cameroon still were seeking
the key to the door in a typical 11 against 10 scenario, when Germany launched
the knock out punch through striker Miroslav Klose and substitute Marco
Bode who smartly had spotted the free space in a sprint from midfield into
attack and won one on one against Alioum like Olembe had lost the same
situation against the german keeper Kahn in the first half.
Cameroon might have been
able to go the same way like Germany to the final, but in the end two good
halfs against Ireland and Germany were not enough.
They are not alone, Argentina
and France went home after the first round, too, although those two did
not really do bad.
A pity, if one takes a look
at the German way to the final: Cameroon may have been closer to a big
upset than it seems now.
Sometimes it just happens
South Africa - Paraguay 2:2,
South Africa - Slovenia 1:0, South Africa - Spain 2:3
South Africa surprised with
a fresh attacking game after new coach Jomo Sono and reduced expectations
at home had freed the team from too much tactical pressure.
They even almost had qualified
for the second round thanks to Slovenian help but eventually Paraguay were
luck to escape and beat the South Africans by one goal.
Of course things have to
be relativated a bit: South Africa were lucky to snatch a draw in the last
minute by a penalty against Paraguay and played only a second string Spanish
squad in the last group match.
Of course it has to be said,
that with the exception of Spain this might have been the weakest group
of the tournament.
But Slovenia still were
very annoying opponents to play against (Spain can witness that) and South
Africa did well in both other matches anyway, suffering a bit from inconsistent
Something to see the world
more optimistic, like coach Sono probably will appreciate.
Senegal - France 1:0, Senegal
- Danmark 1:1, Senegal - Uruguay 3:3, Senegal - Sweden 2:1 a.e.t., Senegal
- Turkey 0:1 a.e.t.
Senegal are the special
case among the African starters. They had the luck, the success, they played
above their individual level (the famous 'more than the sum of the individual
talents') and they reached at least the quarter final although pitched
against the toughest opponency of all.
Luck when Trezeguet hit
the goalpost in the first half against France, luck when the heat helped
out against Danmark. Luck with refereeing against Uruguay and that they
survived the match they should have lost after throwing it away at halftime.
Luck that Sweden hit the Golden Goalpost before Camera hit the Golden Goal.
Luck, but no accident. Senegal
looked the sharpest, the most determined, the most inspired, and the most
believing of all African starters, they displayed a kind of football that
has hardly been seen by Africans at the World Cup before.
Until the tired quarter
final they were really haunting the price, they were attacking it, not
luring for an outsiders chance.
A greater tactical flexibility
characterised their performance too: From the Italian counter style catenaccio
against France to the attacking fireworks of the second half against Danmark,
they were able to show different faces and different rhythms to their opponents.
The big question is: can
this exceptional composition of group of players and a coach all from the
same league (and not the Senegalese one of course) compared at all to the
other African teams ?
When 1998 France became
World champions, The Shot pitched up the question whether or not Peles
prediction of African World Champions had not been fulfilled to some little
extend by the integration of African players in the French team.
Whether on not the borders
had not blurred by having European players of African origin (with a European
coach) once playing under this flag, once under that.
It seems it cannot be said
that the Senegalese success is a logical product of a decade of administrative
work, it seems rather a coincidence of circumstances that has produced
this exceptional group.
But obne has to be careful
here, first signs of the quality of the team already could be seen before
coach Bruno Metsu arrived.
More strange questions have
to be asked when trying to dectect the surprise success receipe of this
team, what other African Nations will surely be keen on doing.
For example: Why is it those
Senegalese players who all play in France and get so well educated there
(and are so desired by the clubs)? Why not the Ivorians, the likes from
Guinea, Cameroon, or a bigger number of those huge talents from Mali and
Burkina Faso (all from the talented francophone West African football reservoir)?
A few of them had been in one of the earlier first African football schools,
but can this explain all?
At home in Senegal domestic
football is reported not to be in a good condition, neither clubs nor youth
teams produce results. The reaction to results does not seem more patient
than everywhere else an there is not much what tells apart Senegalese from
their neighbours apart from a little more stabile government which provides
huge symbolic support for the national team (at least now when they are
successful). Not much what distinguishes the Senegalese background from
the one of other West African nations.
Somehow Senegal seem to
have found a path around the old, more simple logics of success.
Only a fluke? A misleading
mirage for the others? An accident, a special group that is pitched together
by coincidence every 100 years? Or something more?