World Cup: Poor start for Africa’s representatives

15 June 2006 at 19:31 | 730 views

By Abu B. Shaw, Vanguard London Bureau Chief

The performance of Africa’s World Cup ambassadors in Germany has been
abysmal so far. All four new comers have lost their opening matches with the
exception of old horse Tunisia. Inexperience was responsible for these
defeats, I believe.

Tunisia capitalised on its third World Cup experience to save a vital point
on Wednesday June 14 when they had a late 2-2 equaliser against Saudi Arabia.

At the Munich stadium, English outfit Bolton Wanderers’ defender Rhadi Jaidi
headed the leveller late in injury time for the Tunisians to avoid a fifth
defeat for Africa’s representatives. The Lions of Tunisia took the lead
through Al Kahtani in the first half.

But spirited Saudi Arabia equalised in the second half through striker
Jaziri and they eventually took the lead through Al Jaber, the country’s
leading goal scorer. It was huge relief for the Tunisian French coach Roger
Lemerre after the final whistle.

Tunisia is Group H with powerhouse Spain and debutant Ukraine. Earlier,
Spain opened its account with a 4-0 win against ten-man Ukraine led by Chelsea’s new signing Andriy Shevchenko.

On Tuesday, June 13, Togo’s shambolic preparations took its toll when they
lost to South Korea 2-1 in Frankfurt. Even though the Hawks took the lead
through Mohamed Toure, the South Koreans equalised through a free kick after
a Togolese player was red carded for fouling Manchester United midfielder J
S Park. With one man advantage, the South Koreans, the 2002 World Cup
semi-finalists, netted the second goal to seal the defeat for another African ambassador.

Twenty fours before kick off, Togo’s coach Otto Pfister, who had resigned
earlier due to pay dispute involving players, returned to the team after
Togo’s Prime Minister Edem Kodjo flew to Germany to resolve the impasse.
Togo is in Group G with France and Switzerland. In their opening match,
France and Switzerland drew 0-0. It means Togo must win their next game to avoid going home early.

On Monday, June 12, Ghana Black Stars gave a good account of their first
World Cup outing but were overpowered by three times World Cup winners Italy
2-0. Italy’s midfielder Andrea Pirlo slammed in a scorcher after 40 minutes of breathtaking encounter.

But the Africans showed no fear of the Italians and no matter how well Italy
thought they controlled the game, the Black Stars refused to be cowed and launched a string of counter attacks to rock the opponents. But the inexperience of the Ghanaian side let them down. Italy got their second goal
through substitute Iaquinta when a weak pass by Ghanaian defender Samuel Osei Kuffour(photo) to his goal keeper Richard Kingston was intercepted by the Italian

Ghana’s next opponent, the Czech Republic - who outwitted the United States of America 3-0 in their opening match - is another difficult game for Ghana.
The Black Stars must beat the Czechs this Saturday June 17 otherwise their early exit will be sealed in Group E.

The inexperience of the Elephants of Ivory Coast and Angola alike saw their
World Cup dreams shattered in their opening matches. Ivory Coast lost 2-1
to Argentina in a Group C thriller. The Elephants’ only hope now to stay
longer in Germany is to dominate next opponent Holland on Friday June 16. A herculean task.
Angola, who were beaten 1-0 by Portugal must pip Mexico on Friday June 16 to
prevent them packing their bags sooner. Mexico dismissed Iran 3-1 in Group D.

In other World Cup matches, the host Germany got a vital 1-0 win over Poland
on Wednesday night June 14 through substitute Neuville in injury time. This
score line virtually makes Poland the first team to be on the verge of going
out of the World Cup. In the Group A, opener on Friday June 9, Germany
trounced Costa Rica 4-2.

The Socceroos of Australia started their World Cup debut with an emphatic
victory over Japan. They came from behind to thrash the Japanese 3-1 through
Everton’s midfielder Cahill’s double strike in the 84 and 89 minutes
followed by Aloisi’s 90th minute strike. Japan’s Nakamura got the opener in
the 26th minute.
Defending champions, Brazil, struggled to overcome Croatia 1-0 on Tuesday
June 13 through AC Milan’s midfielder Kaka’s wonder strike.