Former Super Eagles striker and scorer of the Nigeria’s winning goal against Bosnia at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Peter Osaze Odemwingie has opined that Africa’s banner at this year’s edition in Russia will be carried higher by Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
Odemwingie claims African football has gone backwards, hence his submission that it will be difficult for Nigeria and the continent’s other teams to lift the trophy in Russia, but feels the North African trio stand better chances.
Rather than tip Nigeria among countries to cause upsets in Russia, the former La Louviere of Belgium, Lille Metropole of France, Lokomotiv Moscow of Russia and West Bromwich Albion of England star says Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco have better chances of doing well.
He noted that a change has come to continent’s status quo, in which the three African teams in history to make the quarter-finals – Cameroun (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) – have come from sub-Saharan Africa.
However, in Russia, there will be more teams from the north than elsewhere on the continent, including a first appearance in 28 years for Egypt, and a return after 20 years for Morocco.
Odemwingie further noticed that none of the five African teams heading to Russia are in the top 20 of FIFA’s current rankings, but he hinted that the influx of overseas groomed players in many of the squads could make a difference.
Nigeria have several players who were born and groomed overseas, but it is Morocco who arrive at Russia 2018 with the most number of foreign-born players, as 17 in their 23-man squad were born outside the country.
Odemwingie believes those who play for the North African nations are cleverer at reading the game and said they have a telling physical difference.
“It’s like Anthony Joshua fighting Floyd Mayweather,” Odemwine highlighted in his stark comparison of a typical player from sub-Saharan Africa with one from the north.