One would say ‘so far so good’, the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has been nothing short of thrilling – unless of course you are rooting for African teams.
Generally, we have witnessed bitter losses and heroic efforts, but most strikingly, we have seen controversial decisions by match officials aided by the insertion Video Assistant Referees (VAR).
The use of this new technology has sparked strong debate and emotional reactions following controversial decisions made by the referees.
Penalties have been awarded, goals have been denied, all thanks to VAR technology.
Back to my African story of the 2018 World Cup. So far, there is little African delight. A continent over a billion people call home is yet to produce a stellar performance, except for Senegal.
Despite having African athletes playing abroad and excelling in the world’s top foreign leagues, the African teams have not shown a lot of improvement compared to the last World Cup or any other previous edition.
Before the tournament got underway on June 14, hopes were high that Russia 2018 would be different from the previous editions of the world’s biggest football event.
So far, all the five African teams (Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia and Senegal) have already played their first matches. Egypt and Morocco have played two games each and won zero. Their fate at the world cup has pretty much been determined - knocked out of the tournament within the first week.
After seven games played by African teams so far, only Senegal have won a game.
Playing in their first match on this stage since their memorable run to the quarter-finals in 2002, Les Lions de la Téranga held on to beat Poland 2-1 in their Group H opener.
Dr Dan Plumley, a senior lecturer in Sport Business Management from Sheffield Hallam University in England, argues that “there’s a psychological effect behind the poor performances when looking at the way the teams perform.”
Whether the argument holds any truth or not, is a debate for another day. But what is disturbing is how the teams have been wasteful when it comes to taking their chances.
The fashion in which they lose is all too similar.
If it’s not conceding in stoppage time, then it’s an own-goal or failure to clear set pieces in or near the box.
Things are not looking good for Africa thus far, but, not all hope is lost. As Nigeria take on Iceland in their second Group D match today, it is every African’s hope that the Super Eagles will do better than the 2-0 defeat to Croatia last Saturday.
If there is anything to go by, the Senegal performance against Poland should inspire Nigeria when they face a well-organized Iceland.
The fear for early exit must also motivate them. Not to mention that it will be a shame if a country of only 300,000 people eliminates the Mighty Nigeria with 200 million nationals.
You, African teams, can do better and we – Africans – deserve better.
The views expressed in this article are of the author