Latin America holds its own, Africa improves

2014-06-29 15:00

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Copa América and Copa Libertadores have become the familiar nicknames of the 2014 Brazil World Cup, while Africans celebrated Algeria and Nigeria’s success.

It was the first time two African nations qualified for the last 16. But Africa is still reeling from the shock of failing to add more teams to the knockout stages after Côte d’Ivoire were eliminated a minute before they would have clinched the third spot.

Algeria and Nigeria have difficult ties against Germany and France, respectively.

Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon were reportedly crippled by ill-discipline, money disputes and player expulsions.

Ghana needed a victory in their last game against Portugal but money issues rocked their camp, resulting in the expulsion of stalwarts Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng.

The players demanded their appearance fees in cash. A plane carrying $3?million (R31?million) was dispatched from Accra to get them paid.

Cameroon’s money dispute started long before they got to Brazil. Ill-discipline saw midfielder Alex Song red-carded for striking an opponent. Team-mates Benoît Assou-Ekotto and Benjamin Moukandjo also had a go at each other.

There’s no doubt the tournament belongs to South and central American countries with seven of the nine from the region – Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico – progressing. Only Ecuador and Honduras went home.

This translates to a 77% success rate. Four years ago in South Africa, six of the seven Latin American countries progressed.

At least one Latin American country has been guaranteed a semifinal spot this year, as the continent’s teams were pitted against each other in last night’s last-16 matches.

Colombia were to play Uruguay with the winner scheduled to meet the winner of the Brazil-Chile match. There have been six World Cups in this region (Uruguay 1930, Brazil 1950, Chile 1962, Argentina 1978, and Mexico in 1970 and 1986). No European country has triumphed in Latin America.

There have been a few surprises in this tournament, with Costa Rica being the unexpected star, finishing on top of a group that had three former world champions in it: England, Italy and Uruguay. The latter came back spectacularly from a first-round defeat to Costa Rica to win their matches against Italy and England.

Chile survived their “group of death”, sending Spain packing with a 2-0 win. Brazil and Argentina have improved their game after uninspiring starts, and are now firm contenders for the trophy. Lionel Messi is playing more like the star he has always been at Barcelona.

France, Germany and the Netherlands have performed brilliantly, giving Europe some hope.

Latin Americans can confidently claim that this is their World Cup, with an unparalleled surge of fans going to Brazil from neighbouring countries, especially Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

Cities have been flooded by ecstatic crowds, as happened in Porto Alegre on Wednesday, when Argentina played against Nigeria.

Close on 100?000 Argentinians crossed the border, mainly by car, with fewer than half of them holding tickets to the match. The rest watched the 3-2 victory on giant screens set up by Fifa and the local government.

In terms of ambience, there has never been anything like this.

»?The Netherlands go up against Mexico today at 6pm, Costa Rica vs Greece (10pm)

»Tomorrow: France vs Nigeria (6pm); Germany vs Algeria (10pm)

»Tuesday: Argentina vs Switzerland (6pm); Belgium vs USA (10pm)

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