World Cup bids farewell to Africa

2014-07-01 08:52

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Rio de Janeiro – Nigeria and Algeria made World Cup history for Africa and now leave with their heads held high.

After putting up great resistance, Africa’s last representatives were sent home yesterday by France and Germany, respectively.

Those two former champions will next play each other on Friday in Rio de Janeiro. That quarterfinal match-up means Europe is guaranteed at least one semifinalist in this World Cup that has smiled on the Americas, supplier of eight of the last 16 teams.

With exceptional saves, goalkeepers again starred both in France’s 2-0 win over Nigeria and in Germany’s 2-1 marathon against an Algerian team whose bravura and feistiness has been among the many revelations of this surprise-packed tournament.

This was Algeria’s first taste of World Cup knockout football, having never advanced from the group stages in three previous attempts.

Germany needed extra time to win after both teams failed to score in two absorbing halves, and it let Abdelmoumene Djabou get a goal back in the dying seconds, doing little for the three-time champion’s credentials as a favourite to lift the trophy again on July 13.

France, the winners in 1998, look the sharper of the two.

Germany’s tactics of pushing players forward and leaving a large chunk of defending to goalkeeper Manuel Neuer would almost certainly prove its undoing against a stronger attack.

Other highlights of another dramatic day at one of the best World Cups in memory included:

» France’s Paul Pogba scored the 146th goal of Brazil 2014, pushing the tally from this tournament beyond that of South Africa in 2010, with 10 matches still to play.

If the current average of more than two goals per game holds through to the final, Brazil could finish with the highest goals total of any of the 20 World Cups.

» Luis Suárez has apologised. Having previously denied that he bit Giorgio Chiellini, the disgraced Uruguay striker reversed course, apologised to the Italy defender and to “the entire football family” via Twitter and vowed that his third ban for biting would be his last.

Chiellini quickly tweeted back: “It’s all forgotten. I hope Fifa will reduce your suspension.”

Suárez is serving a four-month ban from all football.

» Before Brazil, Africa have never had two teams make the knockout stage of the same tournament. Like Cameroon (in 1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010), the Nigerians were hoping to reach their first quarterfinals after twice stalling at the last 16, in 1994 and 1998.

And with goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama flying like Superman, it seemed for a long while the Nigerians might just do it.

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