For the first time in its history the FIFA World Cup will be hosted on the African continent. The only continent that hasn’t hosted this event is now Australia (and Antarctica of course). South Africa 2010 looks to accomplish something that has never happened before, which is to get an African nation into the semifinals. The closest Africa has ever gotten was in 2002 as Senegal beat defending champions France in group stage and made an astonishing run to the quarterfinals before losing to Turkey on the Golden Goal rule. The 1990 Cameroonian team also fell just short in the QFs.
African football on the world stage is still maturing. It’s only been common for at least one team to qualify for the World Cup since Mexico 1970. The first ever side to play in the World Cup was Egypt way back in 1934, where they were quickly eliminated in the first round.
This year a record 6 African nations are in the World Cup, comprising about 20% of the total number of teams in the tournament. South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Algeria all have a shot at making history and asserting that Africa is a rising continental footballing power.
Anything can happen in the World Cup, just ask South Korea in 2002. The co-hosts made a remarkable run to the semifinals and finished 4th, producing the best ever result for Asia in their debut as hosts.
We’ve now seen what Africa can produce as far as individual footballers. Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Sulley Muntari (Ghana), Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast), Steven Pienaar (South Africa), Obafemi Martins (Nigeria), and Nadir Belhadj (Algeria) are just a few of hundreds of players earning a living with European clubs and barring an injury bug we will see these men lead their countries to a shot at one of the most coveted trophies in sports.
As to who will escape group stage and advance to bigger and better things? I honestly don’t know. Cameroon has got the easiest group out of all the African teams (Netherlands, Japan, Denmark) and I believe they are the team to make a deep run in the tournament. On the other hand South Africa got drawn into a tough group and I think they will be the first hosts to be eliminated in group stage.
We’re just three days away from the tournament and I cannot wait.