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2014 World Cup - prospects of the participating african teams

2014 Fifa World Cup: 

 

CAMEROON

GROUP A:

Brasil

Croatia

Mexico

• Cameroon

 

Prospects

It is a long time since Cameroon lived up to their nickname of Indomitable Lions. They have failed to qualify for the last two Africa Cup of Nations amid player friction and discontent with Cameroon's football federation, which was briefly suspended by Fifa in July because of government interference. The national side is top heavy with defensive midfielders but lacking in creativity, to the extent that Barcelona's Alex Song has been deployed in an unfamiliar role as playmaker.

Key-Player

Samuel Eto'o is the captain and a four-time African Footballer of the Year but it is off the field that his influence could be most telling.
The Chelsea forward, 32, briefly retired from international football in September in the wake of a dispute with coach Volker Finke, and in the latest fallout with team-mates he then claimed there was a "plot" among them not to pass him the ball in the World Cup play-off  against Tunisia.
 
The boss
 
Little-known German Volker Finke was named in May as Cameroon's seventh permanent or interim coach in four years. The 65-year-old was in charge at Freiburg for 16 years from 1991, making him the longest-serving manager in German league history.
 
How they qualified

They received a World Cup lifeline in June when Fifa awarded them a 3:0 win v Togo, who had fielded a suspended player. Cameroon had lost the match 2:0 but the ruling put them top of their group. They then beat Tunisia 4:1 in their play-off.

 
World Cup record
 
Brazil will be their seventh World Cup - an African record - but Cameroon have only won one match in four editions since reaching the quarter-finals in 1990. The nadir came in 2010 when they lost all three group matches for the first time.
 
Fifa ranking: 51
 
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GROUP C:

Colombia

Ivory Coast

Greece

Japan

 

Prospects

The Ivorians' golden generation now has a distinctly grey-ish tinge, and this tournament is set to be the last of Didier Drogba's international career. Their talented squad has flattered to deceive, with their failure to win at least one Africa Cup of Nations particularly mystifying.
 
Key-Player

Manchester City powerhouse Yaya Toure scored four times in six qualifiers, a tally bettered only by Lille forward Salomon Kalou.

 

The boss

The appointment of Sabri Lamouchi in May 2012 was hugely controversial. A French international who played at Euro 1996, he had no previous coaching experience. He dropped Drogba after a disappointing 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, but recalled the veteran striker in August.

 

How they qualified

Along with Nigeria, they were the only African side to end unbeaten. They easily topped their preliminary group ahead of Morocco before winning a play-off against Senegal 4:2 on aggregate. There were some nervy moments when they trailed 1:0 in the second leg in Casablanca, but Kalou's injury-time equaliser booked their place in Brazil.

 
World Cup record

They were drawn in the 'Group of Death' in their two previous tournaments. On both occasions they ended third, trailing Argentina and the Netherlands in 2006 and Brazil and Portugal in 2010.

 
Fifa ranking: 17

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NIGERIA

GROUP F:

Argentina

Bosnia-Hercegovina

Iran

Nigeria

 
 
Prospects
 
After failing to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles have undergone a radical transformation under Steven Keshi, who has sought to lower the average age of the squad. His selection policy, at times controversial, has paid off - this year the Super Eagles won their first African title since 1994. They produced a competent showing at the Confederations Cup, but improvement is needed to reach the knock-out stages in 2014.
 
Key-Player

Victor Moses has quickly become an integral figure since making his debut in 2012. He provided real cutting edge at this year's Africa Cup of Nations and was sorely missed at the Confederations Cup, for which he was injured.

 
The boss
 
Stephen Keshi may be reluctant to pack his bags for Brazil just yet. He led Togo to their first World Cup but was sacked a few months before the 2006 tournament. Four years earlier the same fate befell him as Nigeria assistant coach. While he does not fear the sack this time he concedes: "We are talking about Nigeria here, so you never know what may happen."
 
How they qualified
 
Easily. One of two unbeaten African sides (along with Ivory Coast), they ended fivepoints clear in their group, then beat Ethiopia 4:1 in a play-off.
 
World Cup record
 
The Super Eagles reached the last 16 in 1994 and 1998 but fell at the first hurdle in their two subsequent tournament appearances (2002 and 2010).
 

Fifa ranking: 36

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GHANA

GROUP G:

 Germany
 
 Portugal
 
Ghana

USA

 

Prospects

On the face of it, Ghana are one of the strongest African sides. Semi-finalists at each of the last four Africa Cup of Nations, only a cynical Luis Suarez handball prevented them from reaching the same stage at the 2010 World Cup.
 
They were significantly strengthened during the latter stages of the 2014 qualifying campaign by the return from self-imposed exile of brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew, Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng. Keeping that quartet on board will be vital.
 

Key-Player

Former Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan, 28, continues to lead from the front for Ghana. His six goals in as many qualifying appearances all came from open play and he averages more than a goal per game for his club side Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.

 

The boss

Former Ghana captain James Kwesi Appiah, 53, was promoted to head coach in April 2012 after four years as assistant and occasional caretaker boss. Softly-spoken and unassuming, he was not initially a popular - or suitably high profile - appointment with many fans but he has now become the first Ghanaian to lead the nation to the World Cup finals.
 

How they qualified

Having won their group with five wins out of six, Ghana thrashed Egypt 6:1 in the home leg of their play-off to ensure a 2:1 loss in the return leg was academic. They ended as the top scorers in African qualifying with 25 goals.

 

World Cup record

In 2010, Ghana seemed certain to become the first African semi-finalists after Uruguay's Luis Suarez was sent off for handling on the line in the dying seconds of extra-time. However, Gyan missed the spot-kick and Ghana then lost the penalty shootout.
 
Brazil will be their third successive finals, having first qualified in 2006 when they went on to reach the last 16.
 
 
Fifa ranking: 24
 
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ALGERIA

GROUP H:

Belgium

Algeria

Russia

South Korea

 
Prospects

Qualification for the World Cup marked a dramatic upturn in fortunes after their failure to reach the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations and becoming the first side to be knocked out of this year's edition. Algeria were bottom of their group at their last two World Cup finals, and any improvement is dependent on the successful integration of emerging players such as Inter Milan pair Saphir Taider and Ishak Belfodil. It also three years since they played outside Africa.

 

Key-Player

France-born Sofiane Feghouli, 23, is an attacking midfielder or winger who was described by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger a year ago as "exceptional" and "a physical beast".

 
The boss

Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic, 61, took charge in July 2011 and the disciplinarian has cast aside several established players in favour of a new generation, many of whom represented France at youth level. Brazil will be his World Cup bow as a coach, having been sacked by Ivory Coast three months before the 2010 finals.

 
How they qualified

Algeria were the last African qualifiers, beating Cup of Nations finalists Burkina Faso 1:0 in the second leg of their play-off to advance on away goals after a 3:2 first-leg defeat. They won all but one game in the previous group stage.

 
World Cup record

In 1982, Algeria became the first African nation to win two matches in the same finals, but they failed to qualify from the group on goal difference after Germany and Austria contrived a result  that allowed them both to progress. Algeria have not won a game in their subsequent two finals (1986 and 2010).

 
Fifa ranking: 26
 
 
 
18 May 2014
(BBC Sport UK)

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