The 2014 FIFA World Cup has brought a lot of surprises thus far: the sharp exit of the defending champions Spain, the exit of Italy and England, the advances of countries like Costa Rica, Belgium, Colombia, or Switzerland into the last round of 16. Above all, what has brought joy to me, a fellow African, is the advance of two African countries for the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup into the last round of 16: namely, Nigeriaand Algeria(never mind that their names both finish with ‘geria‘). I am glad to see that my predictions of seeing Algeria move forward into the round of 16 came true, and agreed with Maradona’s. I am also thrilled to see Nigeria (whom I had thought were in a good group and had big chances of advancing) progress.
Today, both countries will face France and Germany respectively (France – Nigeriaand Germany – Algeria). We wish them the very best as they carry the hopes of the entire continent up, and we hope to be elated by the strength of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, and the dexterity and perseverance of the Fennecs of Algeria. May the best teams win!
Tomorrow, the world will vibrate to the rhythm of samba, carnivals, and Copacabana… Yes tomorrow, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will start in Brazil, and 32 of the best soccer nations will compete at this great planetary event. This will one month of soccer, pure joy, fun, and above all talent; Talent expressed by players from around the globe. Legends will be made, new faces discovered, and dreams will take off.
Five African teams will grace the tournament: Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria.
We do hope that at least one African team will advance into the round of 16, and beyond. Here are some of the African stars to watch out for.
Samuel Eto’o Fils, captain of Cameroon’s Indomitaple Lions, is incontestably one of the best forwards on the planet, and one of the greatest strikers of his generation. This might be his last world cup, and Cameroon’s first in 8 years. The Pichichi, and winner of several honors including African Ballon d’Or, will have to be ready to affront Brazil, the host country, Mexico, and Croatia in group A.
Didier Drogba, captain of Cote d’Ivoire’s Elephants, like Eto’o is also one of the best on the planet. After playing for Chelsea and winning countless trophies, he is now in Turkey with Galatasaray FC. This will probably be his last world cup. We wish him, and the Ivorian team the very best. They qualified with gusto to this competition. They have a relatively easy group with Colombia, Japan, and Greece. I will put my money on them moving to the next round in the tournament.
The Black Stars of Ghana were fancied to repeat, or even improve on, their run to the quarter-finals in 2010 in South Africa. That was until the draw was made and they were pitted with the world’s second and third-ranked sides. Asamoah Gyan and his teammates will play against Germany, Portugal, and the United States. This is the “group of death”. Ghana is a very good team; if they manage to make it to the round of 16, then they will quite far at the World Cup. We wish them the very best in the competition.
Throughout the years, I have placed high hopes on African teams and have always been disappointed. I might once again be disappointed. However, this is planetary tournament, and the fun of it makes one root for any good team. For the world cup winner, I believe Brazil, the host country has home court advantage, as well as a pool of great talents. Let us hope that will be enough to make them winners. I also think Argentina of Lionel Messi will be a really great contender, as well as Spain, the last world cup winners. Overall, let the world cup start, with all the fun, and may the best team win!!!
There was a lot to celebrate in Africa in 2013. Here are some of those things.
– In January, South African opera singer, Pretty Yende, was the first African to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. You can watch her interview on BBC.
– On February 10, Nigeria’s Super Eagles won this year’s African Cup of Nations. Stephen Keshi’s team made us all proud.
– In March, FESPACO 2013 was a success and featured movies and documentaries from across the continent.
– On March 14, Uhuru Kenyatta won Kenya’s presidential elections. These elections were the people’s choice, and Uhuru Kenyatta defeated the ‘machine’-chose guy Raila Odinga (Obama’s cousin); a very good example of democracy by Africans for Africans.
– In April, Cecile Kyenge became the first Black minister nominated in Italy. Dr. Kyenge is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
– On 31 July, Zimbabwe general and presidential elections went peacefully with the full re-election of Robert Mugabe.
– In August, 12 political figures from Laurent Gbagbo‘s FPI were released in Côte d’Ivoire. Among them was Pascal Affi N’Guessan, previous prime minister of Gbagbo, who was unjustly detained without hearing for 2 years.
– In September, Samuel Eto’o Fils (Cameroonian and one of Africa’s best soccer forward) came out with an autobiographic comic book. Birth of a Champion is the first comic book on an African football player, and will hopefully inspire many youths around the globe.
– In November, Cameroonian author Léonora Miano won the 2013 Feminina Prize for her novel La Saison de l’Ombre, which talks about slavery from those who lived after seeing their relatives captured.
– Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, vowed to build the largest privately owned refinery in Nigeria, which produces more oil than any other African country but must import most of the motor fuel and diesel it uses because existing refineries are dilapidated and inefficient.
I watched Nigeria’s victory yesterday with great delight. I must admit that after they defeated Cote dIvoire in quarter-finals. I already felt that Nigeria would be the winners and honestly, the Stallions of Burkina Faso were no match to the Super Eagles of Nigeria. I am also delighted because this was Nigerias first victory since 1994 (19 years), and Stephen Keshi has become the first man to win the African Cup of Nations both as a player and as a coach. Truly the victory should be dedicated to him, and his hard work. He started coaching Togo and qualified them to the world cup in 2010, and once the Togolese were qualified they sacked him to hire a European coach. Keshi went on to coach Mali, and now his beloved country Nigeria. At first the Nigerian federation did not want to give him the job, but it is hard to deny Keshi’s greatness. They finally gave him the job, and then did not pay him for 2 months prior to the cup (the Nigerian federation would have never dared doing that to a European coach).
I am truly happy for Keshi, who, this week again, mentioned the fact that Africans coaches were just as good as European coaches, and could manage African teams and lead them to greatness. He did just that to a team which had known no real success since 1994 he redeemed Nigerias super eagles, and showed to everyone that Africans could and should trust African coaches just like the Egyptians used to trust Hassan Shehata who led them to three successive African Nationss cup (2006, 2008, and 2010). Truly, I dedicate this victory to Stephen Keshi, and to all the African coaches who love their country and only dream of being given the chance to take their countries to greatest heights.
Just for fun, somebody said on BBC, that “whenever Cameroon is not at the cup, Nigeria wins“… I didn’t know that we were the “bête noire” of Nigeria. I guess everyone knows their strongest opponents… even footballers!
Tomorrow, Saturday will mark the beginning of the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations. I have to admit that just like last year, my two favorites are Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. The Chipolopolo showed a very poor display of their skills this year, and the champions never advanced to the quarter-finals, the first time in 20 years that a champion (since Algeria) doesn’t make it through the first stage.
The game to watch (i.e. the clash of titans) in the quarter-finals, will be Cote d’Ivoire vs. Nigeria. Personally, after Nigeria so-so display, I rest fully on the elephants to send the Super Eagles packing.
The other game will be Mali vs. South Africa. The Bafana Bafana of South Africa have not been a strong team since 1996, and so my hope is the greatest for them. However, they have the home court advantage as the cup is taking place in South Africa. Mali, with Seydou Keita, looks a lot stronger.
Burkina Faso vs. Togo is a so-so game… Anybody’s guess on who will be the winner is good; I give the slight upper edge to Togo.
Lastly, Ghana vs. Cape-Verde will be a nice game to watch. First because this is Cape Verde’s first ever participation at the African Cup of Nations, and also because they have truly earned their place at the CAN, and have so far pleased by their work. The Blue Sharks also happens to have a singing coach who brings joy to the players. This said, I believe Ghana to be the favorite and the strongest side, and I think Asamoah Gyan‘s teammates will be eager to clear last year’s defeat and finally lift the trophy.
I can’t wait to watch a Côte d’Ivoire vs. Ghana final… Elephants vs. Black Stars …the ‘great generation’ as Drogba‘s teammates are known, vs. Ghana’s greats…that promises (if it happens) to be a hot game! I can already see fire on the mountain.