Sunday, January 31, 2010

Africa's Year? Columnist Says No

I'm on record predicting that an African team will make the semifinals of South Africa 2010.

But those who have watched the Cup of African Nations, the biennial continental tournament, seem to be fairly unanimous in their disappointment over the level of play. And organization. And spirit.

Egypt won the thing tonight, defeating Ghana 1-0, and was easily the most impressive side in the tournament. African title No. 7 for Egypt, and its third straight.

The Egyptians, however, are not in the World Cup. They stumbled early in qualifying, rallied to force a one-match playoff with Algeria (the infamous Match of Hate) in November, and lost it ... and all they had to play for this year was the CAN, which they won. Grand. See you in 2014.

Anyway, one columnist at the Johannesburg Times, in South Africa, is depressed/disappointed.

A writer named Bareng-Batho Kortjass watched the tournament up through the semifinals, and he didn't like what he saw.

In the link, under the title of "So much for an African contender come June ..." he goes down the list of the African qualifiers for South Africa 2010 and tells you what is wrong with them.

He believes Ivory Coast has an inferiority complex ... and also has an issue with not being tricky enough to finesse someone to death, but not rough and tough enough to overpower opponents, either. Hmmm.

As for Cameroon (one of the two African teams to make the quarterfinals, in 1990; Senegal did it in 2002), the author suggests they got old suddenly in the back, turning them into a defensive sieve ... and the lack of a playmaker of any talent deadens the offense by starving Samuel Eto'o of the ball.

The author seems annoyed by Nigeria, which, as he notes, has 150 million people, all of whom think they know more about football than their coach. A team of individuals who collectively are inferior to their parts. The Super Eagles, he says, are now known as the Super Chickens back home. They went out in the semis to Ghana's Kiddie Korps.

Ghana made the final, but the author doesn't much like the Black Stars, either. Too young. Too offensively challenged.

And then there is Algeria, which got to the semifinals only to be undressed, 4-0, by Egypt, in an ugly game in which the contentious Algerians ended the match with eight (!) players on the pitch. He asks, and it is a fair question, how seriously anyone can take a team that loses its composure so completely.

As for South Africa? The Bafana Bafana didn't even qualify for the Cup of African Nations, and watched it from afar. So how good can they be?

I still believe at least one African team will catch fire, come June, and become the darling of South African fans, and will ride that momentum deep into the tournament -- until a Brazil or an Italy ushers them out.

But the people actually on the continent of Africa ... don't seem to agree with that assessment.

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