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Little to glow about at World Cup for Africa

Agence France-Presse BERLIN: Africa is ready, Africa s time has come, Africa is calling. Those emotive words from South African president Thabo Mbeki about South Africa s hosting of the 2010 World Cup could just as well sum up Africa s hopes of actually winning the trophy. They may be ready but their time has …


Agence France-Presse BERLIN: Africa is ready, Africa s time has come, Africa is calling. Those emotive words from South African president Thabo Mbeki about South Africa s hosting of the 2010 World Cup could just as well sum up Africa s hopes of actually winning the trophy. They may be ready but their time has still not come and they are definitely still calling, only its becoming a very long phone call and two quarter-final appearances in the history of the competition is a poor return. The quintet of nations for this edition never really threatened to gatecrash the party in the manner of Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002, both of whom failed to qualify for the finals, though Ghana saved a bit of face for the Lost Continent by reaching the last 16. The Black Stars shone by beating the Czech Republic and the United States in the group stages and giving defending champions Brazil some nervy moments before they went down. In the future, I believe the Black Stars from Ghana will show you more in this competition, Ghana s Serbian coach Ratomir Dujkovic said. Any team who will face the Black Stars will have to suffer. You have seen the determination in the performance of the Black Stars, added Dujkovic, who has also coached among others Burma. Sadly the word suffer could be addressed to the remainder of the African sides and their supporters as one by one they toppled. However, both Angola and Ivory Coast could leave the World Cup stage with their heads held high. Indeed Angola s coach Luis Olivieira Goncalves echoed those feelings after his Black Antelopes had exited but with a proud record of two draws with Mexico and Iran and a 1-0 defeat by European giants and former colonial power Portugal. We have every reason to be proud. We will leave with our heads held high, said the 49-year-old, who was the only Africa-born coach of an African side at the tournament. Frenchman Henri Michel admitted he had had enough of African football after being mercilessly mauled by the Ivory Coast press. And it was hard not to feel sorry for the battle-hardened coach as he ended his tenure having guided them to the African Nations Cup final – a penalty shootout defeat by hosts Egypt – and their first World Cup finals. With a bit of the rub of the green and better refereeing The Elephants might even have made it through to the second round but 2-1 defeats to two-time champions Argentina and two-time finalists Netherlands ended the adventure. However, Michel and his gallant team got the thumbs up from the head of FIFA, Sepp Blatter. The best performance was from Ivory Coast, said the Swiss. This was a strong team and in the game with the Netherlands I would say that in the decisive phase they were not always understood by the referees. That was the relatively good side to the African campaign but the challenge of Tunisia and Togo was risible. Tunisia should do better with all their experience and money poured into the sport but even having hired former France coach Roger Lemerre they couldn t break their record of never reaching the second round, Togo rubberstamped the overall impression of African football of chaos and financial promises being broken leading to open warfare among the squad. FIFA have vowed to take action against the federation but when the coach, Otto Pfister is reduced to suing the secretary-general of the body that appointed him in the first place for claiming he was an alcoholic it does little for the image of Africa. Goncalves, though, believes that while there is work to do, African football is on the upward curve. African football is progressing. We know that we can do more than we are doing now and each time we take part in a tournament it shows that we have to improve our infrastructure, our organization and our training of young players, he said. But one day the world will realize Africa has a name to defend and it will defend its reputation, he said. 2010 would not be a bad time to do that.

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