After Wednesday’s round of games, we may have a World Cup on African soil with no African teams present in the second round. Cameroon was already eliminated after two dismally underwhelming performances. A much-vaunted Nigerian side and the plucky, but ultimately inadequate hosts South Africa both limped out last night. Tonight, the odds are heavily stacked against Algeria getting past the U.S. and sneaking second place in their group; and though Ghana, Africa’s best bet for progression, may sit atop its group’s table right now, a difficult match against Germany and an inferior goal difference means its route to the next round is still in the dark. Goal difference is also against Ivory Coast, arguably the continent’s best team, who would have to better Portugal’s 7-0 demolition of the North Koreans later this week.
One can argue that the group placements have been unkind to the star-packed West African sides — a golden generation of Ivorian players in particular have been stifled in two consecutive World Cups by ending up in both the tournament’s Groups of Death. But these teams have also squandered chances and slumped in matches that were for the taking — Ivory Coast will be ruing their draw with Portugal when victory should have been theirs, Ghana the same with an inferior Australian side, and indiscipline in Nigeria’s ranks led to a completely avoidable defeat at the hands of the dire, talentless Greeks. Confused tactics and disorganization within the football federations of some of these countries — a recurring theme — has also played it part. One can only hope that the failure of more fancied Western European teams — France, and potentially England, Italy and tournament favorites Spain — can overshadow Africa’s disappointing display.