Hopes of the first World Cup in Africa producing the continent’s first world champion seem increasingly far-fetched.
By the end of the week, Ghana may be Africa’s sole survivor in the competition, with the five others facing tough — or impossible — routes out of the group phase.
Africa’s disappointing showing is underlined by the Ghanaians collecting more points (4) from their first two matches than host South Africa (1), Algeria (1), the Ivory Coast (1), Cameroon (0) and Nigeria (0) combined.
Far from gloating, however, such supremacy over their African rivals doesn’t sit comfortably with the Ghana players.
“We are praying for the other African countries because it is very, very important for us Africans to make sure that we go further than in the past,” said Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan, who has two goals in two games. “That is our ambition, not (just for) Ghana, but the whole of Africa.”
The first 11 days of South Africa 2010 have given a jolt to the hopes of Africa’s 1 billion inhabitants.
Four-time African champion Cameroon had been one of the continents great hopes. But the Indomitable Lions — featuring Inter Milan’s recent Champions League winner Samuel Eto’o — are already preparing to pack their bags after failing to find their bite in losses to Japan and Denmark.
“It’s a nightmare, I had high expectations for the World Cup,” said defender Aurelien Chedjou after the team discovered it wouldn’t advance here.
South Africa is still clinging on — barely.
Never in the tournament’s 80-year history has the host team failed to advance out of the opening round, and Bafana Bafana’s elimination would test the Rainbow Nation’s World Cup enthusiasm.
“They might struggle to fill the big stadiums and there will be less passion,” Marcel Desailly, a World Cup winner with France in 1998, wrote in South Africa’s Times newspaper. “But the people in the streets will still be curious.”
An early exit can only be avoided by registering a big win over a France side beset by infighting, while hoping for a winner between Mexico and Uruguay in the other Group A finale on Tuesday.
National leaders have been emphasizing the need to be good hosts and stay engaged with the tournament if Bafana Bafana are eliminated.
“Let us not lose sight of the fact that we have already emerged triumphant by successfully hosting the world’s most prestigious soccer tournament,” said Jackson Mthembu, a spokesman for the ruling African National Congress.
The anger is running far deeper in Nigeria following losses to Argentina and Greece. More than a 1,000 death threats have been made against midfielder Sani Kaita following his ejection against Greece, but Nigeria can still advance by beating South Korea if Argentina defeats Greece.
“I’ve never experienced that before, that you have two losses and yet still have a chance to go through,” Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback said. “Of course that has helped us a lot to keep focused on what we are doing. So now we are really looking forward to the game and we can really show how good the Super Eagles are.”
Algeria was never expected to advance from a group featuring England, the United States and Slovenia. What the team has done is disrupt the three-horse race by holding England to a 0-0 draw on Friday to earn its only point.
The Desert Foxes can still advance by beating Confederation Cup finalist U.S. and hoping Slovenia doesn’t lose to England in Wednesday’s other match.
The Ivory Coast — packed with players from Europe’s top leagues — had the misfortune of landing in perhaps the toughest group.
Despite drawing with Portugal, losing 3-1 to Brazil left them in need of a convincing victory over lowly North Korea on Friday and a Brazilian triumph over Portugal.
Midfielder Didier Zokora is feeling the pressure to deliver for his homeland — and the continent as a whole.
“For us as Africans, it’s extremely important that we give a good image of the continent,” Zokora said. “When Ghana beat Serbia, I was so happy because it’s not only about Cote d’Ivoire, it’s also about the other African countries at the World Cup.”
Ghana, though, is the only one emerging as a force here. Despite only drawing with 10-man Australia on Saturday, a victory over Serbia left the Black Stars just needing to avoid losing to Germany to advance.
The organizers will be pulling for Ghana, the only African to advance in 2006.
“Of course this is an African World Cup, we’d love to see African teams going to the second round,” said local World Cup organizing committee spokesman Rich Mkhondo. “But that’s football.”
Source: The Associated Press.