2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

2006 FIFA World Cup™

Impressions of Africa

Ahead of Ghana's Round of 16 contest with world champions Brazil, FIFAworldcup.com sought the opinions of African fans on how well the continent hosting the next FIFA World Cup™ has performed - and discovered how Africa is getting behind its last surviving representatives in Germany.

Of the five countries representing Africa at Germany 2006, four – Côte d'Ivoire , Ghana, Angola and Togo - were making their debuts on the world stage. Only Tunisia , from the north, had seen action at the world's biggest football festival before.

Traditional powers Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa, Egypt and Morocco were all watching from afar as the world waited to see how well the new boys would fare four years before the party swings by Africa for the first time.

With Ghana the only nation to make it to the knockout stage, there were mixed reactions among fans on the streets of Cologne - where Angola, Ghana and Togo all played - though optimism shone through.

"I think Africa's main weakness has been their finishing and Ivory Coast and Togo have suffered especially," said Ouma from Nigeria. "I was impressed by the Togo players' individual skills but they were severely hampered by internal problems. I think we'd have liked to have had at least two African teams through to the second round but I'm happy for Ghana."

Not No.1

Eric from Togo, whose team were affected by off-field problems and recorded three defeats, believed the weakness lay at the other end. "I thought the African teams were able to compete with the best in the world in virtually every department except goalkeeping," said the Sparrowhawks fan.

"Angola's (Joao Ricardo) was the best but the rest left a lot to be desired. For Ivory Coast, who have two defenders playing for Arsenal, I thought it made a big difference to their confidence. It is hard to judge Togo's performances because their preparation was not professional."

Despite two opening defeats, Jean-Marie was happy that Côte d'Ivoire had managed to pull off at least one win in a very tough group. "Leaving after the group stage was not really the result we had hoped for because we believe we are one of the world's best teams," he said of the Elephants, following an energetic discussion with some countrymen. "But it is our first appearance at the finals and the experience will help us in four years. We have a lot of good young players and we must learn not to rely on (Didier) Drogba so much."

After winning the CAF African Cup of Nations two years ago there were high hopes for Tunisia ahead of the finals. "We did not perform as well as we could," Karim said of a team who recorded just a point from their opening game against Saudi Arabia. "But things could have gone very differently had we not conceded against Spain." (Tunisia led for 63 minutes before conceding three late goals.)

Defending Africa

Angola coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves, the only African manager at the finals, believed the more African nations with experience of the FIFA World Cup, the better for the continent. "African football is progressing," he said.

"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 organisation and our training of young players.

"But one day the world will realise Africa has a name to defend and it will defend its reputation," added Goncalves whose side earned two draw against Mexico and Iran, conceding just two goals.

Although the performances of the Palancas Negras surprised many, it is the Black Stars of Ghana who have shone brightest. "No matter what, I like the guys. I'm so proud," said Felix from Ghana. "People ask me where are you from? When I say Ghana, they say 'where is that?' Now they know it is in west Africa."

Two other Ghanaians, Jerriet and Shila, were positively bursting with pride. "It has been wonderful - all the Ghanaian community has come together to support our nation," they said. "Now we are in the finals for the first time and I never felt we would come this far. All of black Africa seems to be supporting us now."

Ghana's performances, with two wins after the opening defeat by Italy, have caused a stir beyond Africa. "They have proved to the world that they can do it," added Ouma. "They have won the FIFA U-17 championship so they have no complex against the big nations. It's also nice they are playing the world champions as they have nothing to lose."

Ghana, the other newcomers, and Africa's more traditional powers will now be hoping to return to world stage in 2010. "Nigeria have a very good young team and Cameroon should be back in the hunt," said Pierre from Cameroon. "Senegal are very strong-willed and South Africa will have qualified automatically so I see a very competitive qualifying campaign. There is so much at stake this time – all of Africa wants to be at the home party."

Ouma added: "It was nice to see four new African nations reach the finals. No nation has a divine right to qualify for the finals. There are now about ten African nations with World Cup experience so it could work well for 2010."

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