No other sporting event has the same impact as the FIFA World Cup. Entire countries grind to a halt to watch games,Many lifestyles and working hours are completely altered throughout the tournament month and many just take an official month-long holiday. Politicians jump on the bandwagon, making a big thing of how much they are supporting the team, and launch government inquiries when their teams fail.
The arrival of the World Cup 2018 hosted by Russia is fast approaching with only days to go to the showpiece for the world’s most lucrative pastime – in Africa, it is clearly an event of deep symbolism.
Before the biggest sporting event in the world commences,African football fans are almost dancing with glee at the prospect that all the years of hard work and preparation are finally coming to fruition, culminating in the opening ceremony.
Africa is represented by Nigeria,Egypt,Morocco,Tunisia and Senegal and, as evidenced by the fact that people from all walks of life in this countries and the entire continent know what is taking place , even rock-dwellers should by now know.
. This represents a remarkable turnaround in a relatively short period of time. Africa had no real presence at the World Cup until 1974, when Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) became the first black African team to take part in the finals.
No African soccer team has ever reached the World Cup semi-finals. For the 2018 tournament in Russia, five strong teams could change that. But it’s not going to be an easy feat.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles
It’s the sixth time Nigeria is participating in the tournament, which makes the Super Eagles a regular World Cup player, only missing out on one tournament since 1994.
While drawing a difficult qualifying group, the Super Eagles around captain John Obi Mikel (30) and midfielder Victor Moses (26) were able to defeat Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria.
But due to poor performance in preceding years, Nigeria was placed in a weaker pot at the draw held in Russia, and ended up in a group with Croatia, Island and Argentina.
Nigeria has played against Argentina four times during previous World Cups, and lost every single game. German trainer Gernot Rohr has said he aims to at least “give a good performance and show high morale.”
But a 4:2 victory in a friendly match against Argentina in November has left the Super Eagles longing for more.
Morocco’s Atlas Lions
Morocco will be participating in a World Cup for the fifth time; however, its last tournament was in 1998.In the last qualifying round, the Atlas Lions led by captain Mehdi Benatia (30) won every match without conceding a goal, to the chagrin of Ivory Coast, Gabon and Mali.
The man behind these brilliant tactics was French trainer Herve Renard, who has won the Africa Cup twice: with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015.
Morocco was seeded with Spain, European Championship winner Portugal and Iran in the World Cup draw for 2018.
Morocco’s team players celebrate a goal against Ivory Coast during the qualifying match against Ivory Coast
Egypt is the most successful national team on the African continent, having won the Africa Cup of Nations multiple times. It’s the third time for the North African country to participate in the World Cup; the last time Egypt played in 1990.
The Pharaohs beat Uganda, Ghana and the Republic of Congo to qualify for Russia. They only scored eight goals in six games. Coach Hector Cuper from Argentina has been heavily criticized for his defensive game, but was vindicated by success: his team won 20 out of 30 games.
And compared to other African teams, the Pharaohs drew a less difficult lot, having been seeded with host Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay.
Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles
Tunisia too has not yet been able to survive the groups’ stage, in spite of participating in five World Cups. The Carthage Eagles qualified without losing a single game. But their opponents – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya and Guinea – were not the strongest competition. Defeating Belgium, England and Panama will be more difficult.
The Tunisian has recruited most of his players from the national league, contrary to other African teams.
Tunisia managed to qualify for the World Cup after a goalless draw with Libya
Betting agencies consider Tunisia to be among the biggest outsiders of the tournament. They put the odds of the Carthage Eagles winning the World Cup at between 1:500 and 1:751.
The team is still adding players to its roster. The Tunisian football association recently invited Rani Khedira (23), the younger brother of German national player Sami Khedira (30) to join the Eagles in Russia.
Senegal’s Lions of Teranga
Senegal ranks amongst the top African nations in the FIFA world ranking. Bookmakers are offering bettors on Senegal odds between 1:126 and 1:151.
This is only the second time for Senegal to play in a World Cup. In 2002, during the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, Aliou Cisse led the team as captain. Today he serves as their head coach.
The Lions qualified by defeating South Africa, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde.
The draw placed them in a balanced group, together with Poland, Columbia and Japan. The team around star player Sadio Mane (25), also from Liverpool, has a good chance of reaching the next stage – the round of 16.