Can Africa make a big impact at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar

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Africa is a big footballing continent that has produced footballers that have excelled on the biggest Stages in world football.

Over the years, great stars like Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Rashidi Yekini, Roger Milla, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Yaya Toure just to mention a few have played and wowed the world at the FIFA world cup.

But, it is rather sad that for this edition in Qatar some of Africa’s biggest stars like Mo Salah, Victor Osimhen and Riyad Mahrez etc. won’t be participating.

Yet, Africa is still well represented at the Tournament and has sent five teams to compete for the grand prize at the FIFA World Cup, Qatar 2022.

We will look to access the chances of the African teams, comparing it with the groups they are placed in and see if they will be able to make it beyond the group stages.

It’s no secret that African teams have been placed in very difficult groups and it is nicely poised for some intriguing and exciting matches like Senegal Vs Netherlands, Tunisia Vs France, Morocco Vs Belgium, Cameroon Vs Brazil, and Ghana Vs Portugal.

These are matches in the group stages of the World Cup that will see the pedigree of African football tested as they take on some of the best teams the world have to offer at the Mundial.

Africa has never conquered the world and have not even made it past the Quarter-final stages.

In fact Africa has managed to reach the last Eight three times – Cameroon 1990, Senegal 2002 and Ghana at 2010.

In all sincerity football has become more unpredictable since then but let’s take a look at each African team and see weigh in on their chances of qualifying from their respective groups.

Senegal (Teranga Lions)

Senegal are placed in group A alongside host nation Qatar, Netherlands and Ecuador.

The Teranga Lions will be optimistic of their chances of qualifying beyond the group stages, as they have the quality to do so and even as African Champions.

Senegal however suffered a major set back as talisman Sadio Mane was taken off after just 19 minutes in Bayern Munich clash with Werder Bremen and has been ruled out of the tournament and was eventually dropped for Qatar trip.

Without Mane in the heavyweight clash against Netherlands, Senegal will have it all to play for against Netherlands as the Orangé, will be a strong test and in the absence of there talisman the Teranga Lions, will have to rely on the collective to draw inspiration.

The fact that they couldn’t make it past the 2018 group stage on accumulated yellow cards.

In the absence of Mane, Senegal’s main strength is in defense and they boast of a backline that can be really hard to break down, led by Chelsea’s duo of Kalidou Koulibaly(Captain) and Edouard Mendy, and the support cast of Pape Abou Cisse (Olympiacos), Youssouf Sabaly (Real Betis) and Ismail Jakobs (Monaco) it will really be tough to break down the Lions.

Midfield is probably where the selection headache will be, but, Aliou Cissé will probably call on experienced Everton Midfielder Idrissa Gueye to sit at the base of the midfield alongside Leicester City’s Mendy and Nottingham Forest Cheikhou Kouyate.

However Aliou Cissé can also call on Monaco’s youngster Krepin Diatta as the 23 year-old is now a regular for the Ligue 1 outfit, and Marseille’s Pape Gueye who is slowly but surely breaking into the team in France.

In attack Salernitana’s Boulaye Dia will lead the line and the 26-year-old Senegalese will be banking on himself as he has already recorded 6 goals and 2 assist in the Serie A this campaign, he will most likely be flanked by Watford’s Ismaila Sarr and exciting Villarreal winger Nicolas Jackson.

Tunisia (Carthage Eagles)

For the first time African teams going to be the World Cup will be coached by indigenous coaches and Jalel Kadri and his team will be optimistic of getting out of group D, although they have the likes of France, Denmark and Australia to contend with.

This is a well grounded Tunisia team and has most of its players playing in Africa. Tunisia boast of the best players across the top leagues in Africa.

Although coach Jalel Kadri has dropped Clermont’s Midfielder Saif-Eddine Khaoui, 10 players survived from the squad that competed in the World Cup tournament back in Russia 2018.

Tunisia’s first game will be against Denmark and it’s going to be a very stern test as Denmark are no pushovers and have further strengthened their reputation by finishing second in the UEFA Nations League Group 1. They also face 2018 world cup finalist’s Croatia and France.

Tunisia is expected to line up in a 4-3-3 system and Zamalek center forward Seifeddine Jaziri is expected lead the line, flanked by Brondby’s exciting winger Anis Ben Slimane and Montpellier’s Wahbi Khazri.

Al- Arabi’s Youssef Msakni can also join in attack should Ben Slimane drop to Midfield.

Koln’s Midfielder Ellyes Skhiri will sit at the base of a three man Midfield alongside Al-Duhail’s Ferjani Sassi and Aissa Laidouni.

Lorient’s Defender Montassar Talbi and Dylan Bronn will be the center defensive pairing for Tunisia and Ak Kuwait’s Bilel Ifa can also step up at the heart of the defense if need be.

Mohamed Drager is expected to start on the right of the defense while Ali Abdi will start on the left and it will be a contest between US Monastir’s Bechir Ben Said and CS Sfaxien’s Aymen Dahmen for the goalkeeping position.

Denmark will be a tough one for Tunisia and will be favourites against the North African side and they’ll be contented with a draw ahead of the the next game against Australia – which is winnable for them.

If Tunisia can get at least four points from their opening two games, then they will have something to play for when they clash with defending champions France.

Tunisia’s chance of getting out of the Group stages is evenly balanced and depends on how well they perform in the opening two games – against Australia and Tunisia – and are expected to finish with four points but will it be enough?

Morocco (Atlas Lions)

This will be the sixth-time that Morocco has qualified for the FIFA world cup and have somewhat underachieved in their last five outing making it past the Round of 16 only once in 1986.

PSG’s Full-back Achraf Hakimi will be crucial to the success of Morocco at the Mundial and once out-cast Hakim Ziyech, who was brought back in into the fold by coach Walid Regragui, can be essential to success if the former Ajax winger can produce the magic that made Chelsea go all out for him.

Morocco also have LaLiga duo of Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla) and Abde Ezzalzouli (Osasuna)who can both attack and can be a threat for any side in this competition.

However Morocco are in a very difficult group and will have to navigate Croatia, Belgium and Canada.

Morocco’s first encounter will be against Croatia and the 2018 finalist still led by the evergreen Luka Modric will prove to be very stern test, but the Atlas Lion are a technically disciplined side that can cope and the game against Croatia will be very open.

Sevilla Goal custodian Yassine Bounou will no doubt start in goal and ahead of him in center defense will be Stade Brest’s Achraf Dari and Besiktas Romain Saiss, Achraf Hakimi is the undisputed right back, while Bayern Munich’s Noussair Mazraoui will hold the fort on the left side.

Fiorentina’s Sofyan Amrabat will operate as the lone defensive midfielder with Selim Amallah of Standard Liege and Azzedine Ounahi of Angers playing ahead of him.

In attack Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri is expected to lead the lines and will be flanked by Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Osasuna’s Abde Ezzalzouli.

The encounter against Belgium will be much more difficult and if Morocco can get all three points against Croatia it will give the Atlas Lions a chance to face the Red Devils with cool heads.

Canada looks the easier of the three teams set to face Morocco in the group stages but are by no means push overs and the Africans will have to watch out for the likes of Troyes forward Ike Ugbo and Bayern Munich wingback Alphonso Davis.

If there is any game Morocco is favorites for all three points, it has to be the encounter against Canada and as difficult as this group is Morocco, the Atlas Lions still have a odd chance of making it out of the Group and are expected to finish with at least.

Cameroon (Indomitable Lions)

The indomitable Lions of Cameroon are a very good side, and have an outside chance to make it out of the group stage. Rigobert Song and his boys will have to Navigate Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland.

Cameroon’s first game will be against Switzerland and even if the Europeans recently lost 2-0 in the recent friendly against Ghana, they are still a very compact side with a clear direction of play.]

However the game will be open and Cameroon will fancy their chances against Switzerland.

The Indomitable Lions presented a strong team and will line up with Inter Milan’s Andre Onana in goal, Jean-Charles Castelletto will partner former Marseille center back Nicolas Nkoulou in center defense.

Seattle Sounders Nouhou Tolo will play in left back while Collins Fai will play right back.

Should Rigobert Song chose not play with a double defensive pivot in midfield Martin Hongla who plays for Hellas Verona will start in the middle of the park and joining him in midfield will be Napoli’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Swansea’s Olivier Ntcham.

Cameroon have two very capable center forwards to choose from but the evergreen Vincent Aboubakar is expected to lead the line although the role can be ably taken up by Bayern Munich forward Maxim Choupo-Moting.

Both strikers can also play off one another and regardless of who starts, if Song chooses to go with a front three then whosoever starts will be flanked by Lyon’s Karl Toko Ekambi and Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo.

Beating Brazil may be too much to ask, but for Cameroon, they will fancy their chances against both Switzerland and Serbia and are expected to at least get 3 points from those encounter.

GHANA (Black Stars)

Ghana is a great African footballing nation and have gone close, in recent years, to reach the quarter-final of the world cup, barring that unfortunate penalty incidence.

However that was in 2010 and the reality of 2022 sees Ghana as the least ranked team heading into this particular edition of the World Cup tournament, going up against Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea.

Ghana’s first game will be against Portugal and although people like Coach Annor Walker (Ghana CHAN Coach) will not want to compare how Nigeria coped with Portugal with what the Black Stars will show, no one will deny that it will not be easy against Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates.

However Ghana also has a good side and if things go their way they are more than capable of creating an upset.

St.Gallen Lawrence Ati-Zigi will start in goal, winning the battle against Eupen’s Abdul Manaf Nurdeen, who has not be getting regular game time at his club.

Leicester City’s Daniel Amartey and Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu will be the center back pairing. Although Celta Vigo’s Joseph Aidoo can also play in the middle, should coach Otto Addo choose to go with a back three.

Former Chelsea’s defender Abdul-Rahman Baba is certain to start at left back, while Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey will start at right back.

The midfield trio will be Arsenal’s Thomas Partey, Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus – as a Double pivot – and Andre Ayew playing as no 10.

Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams will start as the top nine and will be flanked by Crystal Palace Andre Ayew and Daniel Afriyie.

Portugal are heavy favorites against Ghana and any result in favour of Ghana will be a major upset, the next game against South Korea is a little open, but, the Black Stars aren’t favorites even if they get a point from the encounter.

 

The last game will be against the notorious Uruguay led by Suarez, Darwin Nunez and Fede Valverde.

Ghana will be out for revenge against Uruguay given the 2010 fiasco, but, Uruguay are still favorites for this encounter and it will be very difficult to see Ghana progress out of this group and are likely to finish with just 1 point.

It’s going to be a very tough encounter for African teams participating in the World Cup, and it will be very difficult for any of the teams to qualify to the next round but Senegal and Tunisia have outside chances.

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