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World Cup Morning Report - Lack of African success disappointing for many as Nigeria self-implode

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By Martin Shillito

Friday 18 June 2010

So far there has been eight games played, three goals scored, three red cards and just one win. Those are the bare statistics when it comes to African countries so far at this World Cup, and their displays have been largely disappointing for a lot of people.

The expectation of success for the African sides was not exactly sky-high a week ago as the tournament got underway, but the fans of South Africa and of their African comrades have deserved to experience far more than the generally stale and limp performances they have been subjected to thus far. Only Ghana have won, and arguably the best African teams who have the greatest chance to progress to the Round of 16, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, put in abject displays in their first games as they seemed to possess very little quality indeed. The sad thing is the fans can cope with their team not having any quality. It is when the players seem to display no fight, spirit, urgency or raw desire to win that the disappointment and anger pervades the bodies and minds of the loyal fans who give their all, as they dance, sing and blow endlessly into their vuvuzelas in a mass torrent of support to urge their team to victory.

As well as being hurtful for the fans and people of the African countries, it is also dreadfully disappointing for the football romantic. The first World Cup in Africa, hosted specifically by South Africa, as anniversaries of the Soweto uprising and the abolishment of the last of the apartheid laws come and go, the real football romantic, or perhaps just anyone with understanding and a heart, finds himself watching the African nations’ games with particular interest and zeal, hoping and wishing for a performance their often underprivileged fans can be proud of. But rarely have we experienced such performances as yet, and Nigeria’s defeat to Greece yesterday triggered the ultimate feeling of pathos.

After their bright start and having taken the lead on 16 minutes, the Super Eagles looked extremely comfortable and composed. That was until Sani Kaita had his spontaneous moment of insanity and earned himself a red card – the third of the tournament to be distributed to an African player. The following events then continued to relentlessly conspire against the Nigerians, with a deflected equaliser, two Nigeria players (Taye Taiwo and Elderson Echiejile) sustaining injuries and having to be replaced, Chinedu Obasi spurning a golden opportunity to put them 2-1 up and finally Vincent Enyeama, who had displayed superb hands and been brilliantly agile until this moment, spilling a shot from distance and gifting Greece the win. Once Kaita had been dismissed the game’s complexion instantly became markedly different, and the last hour of the match was the perfect microcosm of how things have gone for the African sides thus far.

It is not all grim news however, as despite the African fans, football romantics and also FIFA officials moping around in despair at the African failures so far, England play Algeria, an African representative, today. A victory must be a shoo-in then.

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