JOHANNEBURG - If 2010 was the ‘Year of Africa’ in football circles, it will be remembered for a spirited celebration of the FIFA World Cup that left little room for much of the pre-event doubts.
The successful hosting of the tournament was a timely boost for the continent’s image in the eyes of the global community, and never before have Africans spoken so fondly of their region, which can now proudly point to their capacity and ability in staging the event. For South Africa, it offered a chance to change perceptions and greet the world like few others have before.
In football terms, Africa remains at a crossroads, threatening to push on and become more of a world force but at the same time under threat of being turned back.
With six representatives at the FIFA World Cup for the first time, 2010 offered an opportunity to make a stronger bid for success, but results on the pitch were mixed. Join FIFA.com for a look back at the year in African football.
Egypt failed to reach South Africa 2010 after a bitter play-off defeat by Algeria in 2009, but in 2010 they kept up a remarkable continental run that has now seen them win an unprecedented three CAF Africa Cup of Nations tournaments on the trot. The Pharaohs were rarely even threatened and brushed aside all comers with six wins out of six in Angola.
The vanquished team in the ultimate match at the Cup of Nations was an injury-hit Ghana, coached by Milovan Rajevac. But the emergence of a young Ghanaian generation built around 2009’s FIFA U-20 World Cup success and the consistent goalscoring of Asamoah Gyan were a harbinger of things to come.
The most successful African team at the ‘African World Cup,’ the Black Stars stunned Serbia in their first match after a late Gyan penalty and rode Gyan’s extra-time goal past the USA in the second round. Those wins allowed Ghana to match the feat of Cameroon (1990) and Senegal (2002) in reaching the last eight at the World Cup.
Although South Africa became the first host nation not to make it past the first round of the World Cup, Bafana Bafana gave their supporters a farewell gift in the form of a 2-1 victory over former champions France in boisterous Bloemfontein. Elimination on goal difference could not take away the pride of the nation or the memories of the vuvuzela.
Nigeria were runners-up at the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany this year, which is further than any African women have ever gone at a FIFA tournament. Their most important victory was a penalty shootout win over defending champions United States in the quarter-final, a round that the Falconets had fallen at in the previous three tournaments.
At club level, the FIFA Club World Cup offers the only forum for Africa to match itself up against the rest of the world, and after years of disappointing results, TP Mazembe Englebert became the first side from outside of Europe or South America to reach the final of the event after besting Brazilian opposition Internacional 2-0 in the semi-final.
Cameroon captain Samuel Eto’o had a disappointing World Cup along with the rest of his national team, who finished bottom of their group without a point. Nonetheless, his exploits with all-conquering European club side Inter Milan were enough for him to win a record fourth CAF Africa Player of the Year Award.
Egyptian striker Mohamed ‘Gedo’ Nagui was the revelation of the Cup of Nations in Angola. Having scored just once previously for the Pharaohs, Gedo managed five goals in five appearances as a substitute, including the late winner in the final.
Still only 25, Asamoah Gyan will surely see 2010 as the most significant year in his short career. After scoring three goals at the Cup of Nations, including two match-winners, Gyan still came to the World Cup with some questioning his ability to lead the line.
But in the absence of talismanic captain Michael Essien, Gyan was Ghana’s inspiration, scoring three goals and embodying the team’s lively confidence.
Gyan was joined on the Ghana team by a fantastic collection of promising talents, notably midfielders Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew and Kwadwo Asamoah, 21 and 22 years old respectively. Ayew, the son of Abedi Pele, was named a finalist for the Hyundai Best Young Player Award at the World Cup, while Asamoah picked up CAF’s Most Promising Talent Award at the end of the year.
Tshabalala lifts the roof
Siphiwe Tshabalala’s fantastic goal opened not only the World Cup but South Africa’s campaign as hosts in style. It seemed like it might carry them through a difficult group, but although they fell at the first hurdle, this moment alone left a taste of triumph in the mouth.
Gyan converts a penalty
Three weeks after Tshabalala’s goal, Soccer City witnessed another moment for the ages. Just minutes after he had blazed over from the spot in the last minute of extra time against Uruguay - a miss that would have made Ghana the first African team to reach the semi-final of a World Cup - Gyan converted Ghana’s first attempt in the post-match shootout.
Although the Black Stars were eliminated moments later, it was a spectacularly brave display by the gutted striker and a worthy memory for the watching continent.