• Finn Glowacki

Why people need to watch out for African countries in the next World Cup?

The World Cup is the greatest tournament on the planet and is the pinnacle of international football and throughout the years the tournament has been a celebration of talent but it has also produced some of the greatest underdog stories.

When it comes to the success of countries in the tournament it usually resonates from either South America or Europe. Eight different countries have had their hands on the famous trophy with Brazil claiming the most having won the tournament on a staggering five occasions. Followed by France who have won the tournament on four occasions with their most recent win coming in 2018.

As the years have gone on we have began to see the increase of African sides getting to the finals and doing well which asks the question, could there be an African winner of the World Cup on the horizon?

Across many of the top European leagues there are some of the best African talents gracing the field and in particular the English Premier League. There are many high profile names across the league with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane representing Liverpool as well as Edouard Mendy for Chelsea. All three players have been successful with their clubs and have really shown why people need to take note of their talents.

There are many more scattered across the globe and there always has been with many players regarded as legends of the game and are household names amongst football fans. Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, George Weah, Jay-Jay Okocha and an endless list of incredible footballers that have sparked a new generation of African talent.

Despite this though, none of these players have been able to be world champions. The furthest stage that any team has reached at the tournament is the Quarter-Finals with only three teams achieving that stage. The last time any side did so was when Ghana made the last eight in 2010 before they where controversially knocked out by a famous Luis Suarez handball, followed by an even more famous penalty miss from star man Asamoah Gyan.

Since 2010 there hasn’t been much to shout about in terms of success at the World Cup for African countries, however I believe that the tide is beginning to turn.

This year the AFCON (African Cup Of Nations), is filled with so many strong and exciting young teams that are richly filled with talent with the likes of Morocco and Senegal proving to have two of the strongest squads in the competition. Despite the media coverage debates surrounding the tournament I believe that this really is a year that people need to take notice of some of these teams and there huge potential.

With the next World Cup coming at the end of this year many will be drawing their attention to the likes of Italy, France, Brazil etc but I wouldn’t be to surprised if people where to look towards some of the African countries to be successful.

There are many reasons as to why there hasn’t been an African winner of the World Cup but the question is now, is there going be a change for good surrounding the future of African football.

One of the biggest differences between the European, South American and African sides is the style of play. If we look at Brazil they have always held the philosophy of creative, fast flowing and skillful play that has been carried out by some of the best natural talents the world has ever seen. In particular the 2002 Brazil team that contained R9 Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos. That squad was dangerously good and some of the football produced was some of the greatest ever seen. This creative, free flowing style is much associated with many South American sides such as the great Argentina teams and also Uruguay. This style originates from the streets and suburbs of poor areas where people would play with freedom and creativity in order to produce high levels of skill.

This style is very much different to European football as it appears to be a lot more dedicated and tactical rather than flamboyant and free. Looking at a team like Spain, the 2008-2012 era of Spanish football was simply glorious and it was a side that won everything. The 2010 World Cup is an example of the style that I have mentioned. As much the South Americans are attacking and stylish they do have that balance defensively but isn’t seen as much compared to European sides.

This Spanish team consisted of a defence including Carlos Puyol, Gerard Pique and also Sergio Busquets. Each of these players aren’t the most glamorous or skillful on the eye yet they all do their job to the highest level and maintain the level of resilience and grit that teams need to win. In contrast to this Spain also had magicians Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Andreas Iniesta. All three could create something out of nothing and had the visionary ability and passing ability that many can only dream of. The reason why this team succeeded is because they worked well tactically and at the end of the day they were a team and the players mentioned where the ones that did the simple stuff and dirty work that many would oversee but at the end of the day it’s the most important thing needed. And this is seen throughout many European teams with the likes of Italy and France following suit.

Now taking these two contrasting styles into consideration we can look at the African style. In teams of the past and still to this day there has always been a refreshing feeling when watching African sides play and that is ultimately down to the passion and freedom that is decorated all over the pitch. Both styles that I have mentioned can be seen within the traditional style of African football and the main reason for this is because of the variety of individual talent and experience that each side has. If we look at a team like Senegal for example, their squad is filled with many global superstars such as Mane but also Kalidou Koulibaly amongst others. Because the players are so wide spread across so many different leagues and styles, it can be hard to find a balance that works.

The one thing that cannot be taken away from African players is the enjoyment and pride that each and every player takes when representing their country. That in itself is presented on the pitch and is so different compared to the heavy weight sides such as Brazil, France, Argentina etc, that is because there is a level of togetherness and unity amongst the team that allows for the players to go and express themselves.

The culmination of all of the factors mentioned could potentially create one dangerous looking team and we are beginning to see signs of this in many teams. For example

Morocco. The Moroccan team is filled with many different players and abilities but ultimately there is a balance which at the end of the day has helped to make the team become successful. Despite the absence of Hakim Ziyech in this years AFCON, there is still enough creativity and high profile talent in order to win the tournament. In the build up to the tournament the Atlas Lions where given a 14.5% chance of being victorious which is a higher percentage than any other team.

As well as Morocco there are also other teams that are collectively solid and look very exciting, one of these teams is Nigeria. Its been a while since the Super Eagles where successful but their current squad is filled with players that are playing for some of the best teams in the world and they are coming together to create a real force that people need to be mindful of when facing them.

With the next World Cup only round the corner, it may be hard to stop the likes of Italy and Argentina, amongst other, being successful but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if within the next 10-15 years we see a transition and some of these exciting, young African sides turn into some of the fiercest teams in the world.