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Africa’s World Cup dream lies in tatters yet again

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The issue of African teams progressing to the next level has become a burning issue, especially on social media

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By now all the African teams have bombed out of the World Cup in Russia, but you are likely to see a French team that has many players that look like the boys from your neighbourhood squad.

The issue of African teams progressing to the next level has become a burning issue, especially on social media.

I never know what to make of the question as to why the African teams do not, or cannot, progress beyond the group stage of the biggest football competition there is. I give the benefit of the doubt to those asking the questions and assume that, like myself, they are frustrated at this phenomenon and are concerned at the lack of any obvious progress by Africa on this stage.

I, perhaps like yourself, have read many genuine contributions on the debate from professors to Joe Soap, but have yet to get a competent answer to the question. In view of that glaring gap in our knowledge I then simply put it down to the African teams not scoring enough goals to allow them to progress.

Well, it has to be that and nothing else. Look at Nigeria’s last group game against Argentina. Both had started the tournament with, dare one say it, unexpected losses. Both recovered admirably in their second fixtures. They then met in the third slot of the group. This was a battle royale, if ever there was one. The final result was determined by the goals scored on the day.

I must add here that a bit of luck, in fact dollops of luck, also has a lot to do with it. Some time during the Nigeria-Argentina clash, an Argentinian player miss-headed a ball in his goal area. The ball then deflected off his outstretched arm. Usually the applicable Fifa rule specifies that when the ball connects with an outstretched hand it should be penalised.

It is for that reason that you see players tuck in their hands next to their bodies to avoid this accidental or unintended hand contact with the ball.

The Nigerian squad demanded a review on the new fangled telly thing called Video Assisted Referee (VAR). The referee complied, saw the hand-to-ball incident on the screen, but stuck to his decision not to award Nigeria a penalty.

That, my friends, put paid to the Africans’ hope of progressing to the Last 16 stage of the competition.

Now, as to the undertone of the question about progress. This undertone is soundly refuted by the appearance of many players of African roots in the make-up of many of, especially European teams that are from known former colonial countries.

Teams such as France, England and the likes of Belgium and some of the Scandinavian countries – Sweden, Denmark – and even Switzerland source many of their star players from Africa. Or at least some of the players have their roots here.

What does this say? Nothing that answers the question about not progressing truthfully.

Now, I accept that the questioner is rooting for Africa and wants teams from the continent to do well in the world’s most outstanding competition. I do reassure the questioner though that Africa is by no means alone in this lack of progress in this competition.

In fact the appearance of so many teams from Africa is a victory in itself. Of the six Fifa regional federations CAF, Uefa and Conmebol provided the bulk of competing teams at Russia 2018. In the end, Uefa and Concacaf associations tend to dominate the world cup finals.

In this regard you are likely to see my favourite team from the Americas namely Mexico in the final against possibly a Uefa-based team such as France or Belgium.

Why they are so successful is based on, firstly talent, secondly money and lastly opportunity.