All five South American sides have managed to qualify for the last 16, with Uruguay just booking their passage to the quarter finals. As Brazil and Chile face one another, a South American team will have to be knocked out but their success at this tournament is in stark contrast to the African nations. Even the perceived weak Asian sides managed to have two representatives in the second round as did Central America thanks to the United States and Mexico. Meanwhile, Ghana are the sole representative in the last 16 and they could have been knocked out had Serbia nicked a last gasp equaliser against Australia.
So why are African sides so poor in major tournaments? This was supposed to be their coming out party. There are a multitude of African players plying their trade in the best leagues around Europe. In fact, you could make a top class side with African players alone. Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Michael Essien (unfortunately injured) are all considered to be among the best in their position on the planet. Even players like Alex Song, Kolo Toure and Obafemi Martins have enjoyed reasonably successful careers in Europe, yet their respective national teams fail so miserably at international level.
It is obvious that Brazil and Argentina are wonderful sides loaded with world class talent but can you really say the same for Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay? Yes, there are some quality players on these sides but man for man are they better than the Ivory Coast? Even though the Ivory Coast had a tough group, they didn’t take advantage of a very average Portugal side who will be knocked out for sure if Spain turn up against them. Then we have Japan and South Korea. Nigeria dominated South Korea but gave away stupid goals and they were knocked out. One more goal would have seen the African side through.
Nigeria’s performance answered the question as to why African sides fare so badly: discipline. Their federations bring in managers too soon before major tournaments to make a difference. For example, Lars Lagerback was hired by Nigeria in February. It is not possible to instil discipline in that time and this was shown in their performances. This happens time and again and until these federations give their managers time to develop a system, African nations will continue to lag behind. It is no coincidence that Ghana who are their sole representative in the last 16 have had the same manager, Milovan Rajevac since August 2008. In this time he has managed to get a proper system in place and they look very good defensively.
It's also amazing what some of these coaches make...
Sven-Goran Eriksson - Ivory Coast - $2 million (until end of World Cup) Lars Lagerback - Nigeria - $1.75 million (until end of World Cup) Carlos Alberto Parreira - South Africa - $1.25 million per year Paul Le Guen - Cameroon - $960,000 per year Milovan Rajevac - Ghana - $540,000 per year Rabah Saadane - Algeria - $360,000 per year
Although the discipline issue - or lack of it - is fair point, I think there were other factors. Nigeria were a tad unlucky not to go through thanks to a goalkeeping mishap or two plus Yakubu's open goal miss against South Korea. Despite a couple of goals, Eto'o looked disinterested for much of the tournament for Cameroon. Perhaps if Algeria had have been more positive in their games they could have sneaked through also? All ifs and maybes...
And it is worth noting that Milovan Rajevac is at the low end of the pay scale yet has done a terrific job with Ghana. They have about a 40/60 shot of beating Uruguay I feel. Their lack of firepower will probably do for them. Eriksson is a bad joke, his incompetence nearly cost Mexico their place at the finals. The man is a charlatan, living off his Serie A success with Lazio.
Nigeria’s defence is what cost them. Loss of concentration hurt them badly. They dominated South Korea and should have been several goals up before conceding. They also fell apart against a bad Greek side with ten men. Paul le Guen was an absolute disaster. He won four successive French league titles with Lyon but failed miserably at Glasgow Rangers. He alienated the squad, played his best player out of position and left Song on the bench. They were a disgrace against Japan. Funny to see how Nigeria have been pulled out of international competition for two years to get their team better structured. They want to keep Lagerback who is a decent coach. Maybe he can achieve something if given time.