Not on the ball

2010-06-27 11:28

Elijah Moholola looks at the reasons behind the failure of Africa’s teams, apart from Ghana, to progress beyond the first round of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.


Scoring problems

It seems that Europe-based African stars misplace their scoring

boots at the arrival sections of international airports whenever they report for

national duty.

For a continent that serves as a place called home for the likes of

English Premiership leading goalscorer Didier Drogba and Italian Serie A

­defenders’ nightmare Samuel Eto’o, African teams’ scoring rate has been low.

In the 18 group games involving the six African teams, only 13

goals were scored.

Algeria flew in and out of South Africa without tasting the back of

the net.

Though they proceeded to the second round, Ghana has not scored

more than once in their three World Cup group games – or in their past 11


Football’s rule is simple – you don’t score, you don’t win.

Underperforming top stars

Other than the misfiring strikers, African top stars do not ship

their A-game from ­Europe.

This could have something to do with playing too many

games at club level, with the likes of Steven Pienaar, Emmanuel Eboue and

Alexander Song regulars in the English Premiership.

Just this past season, Drogba played 44 matches for Chelsea and 15

for his national team in 52 weeks.

But the misperformance by these big stars

could also have to do with the quality of the players they play with.

In SA’s opening fixture against Mexico, Pienaar was fielded

alongside eight SA-based players. And nine players in the squad were making

their World Cup debut.

Mistaken tactics

It is a dilemma most coaches who have players plying their trade in

different leagues have to face – whether to stick with the kind of play the

players are accustomed to at club level or have them adapt to the national team


Unlike Germany – who are made up entirely of local-based players –

and Spain (with only three foreign-based stars), most African teams are

comprised of players with a varied cocktail of playing styles.

Be that as it may, African countries should stick to their

strengths – an attacking formation – rather than trying to use the European’s

defensive ­pattern.

When Carlos Parreira discarded his one-striker formation, the

result – or more specifically the goals – were there for everyone to see.

Axing and altering coaches

When was Nigeria’s Lars Lagerback and Sven-Goran Eriksson of

Cameroon appointed? And how long will they be at the helm.

Lagerback was only roped in four months ago on a six-month

contract, while Eriksson is on a three-month deal that began in March.

How much time did these coaches have to prepare their troops for

the World Cup? ­African countries need to adopt long-term plans.

Egypt has been the most successful country on the continent partly

because they stuck with coach Hassan Shehata from 2004 to 2010.

South Africa has had 17 coaches since 1992, while Cameroon had 18

mentors in the same period.

Only two of the six coaches in charge of African countries have

been drawing a salary from their local associations for more than a year.

One-man teams

It does not help to have only one Drogba, Eto’o, Ayigbeni Yakubu,

Karim Ziani, and so on in the team.

There is a reason it’s called a team – all

players must be of the highest quality. But in African teams, the reliance is

mostly on one or two players.

When Drogba had his one hand tied – or wrapped in a special

Fifa-approved plaster – it ­affected the Elephants’ ­performance.

It is easier to name at least eight quality players for Brazil,

Spain, Argentina and other top teams than to name four for African sides.

Even in teams that are teeming with talent like Ivory Coast, these

stars still fail to gel as they tend to play more as individuals than as a


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