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Saturday, September 24, 2022

2022 World Cup: How far can African nations go?

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Five countries will represent Africa in Qatar at the first FIFA World Cup in the Gulf. Reigning AFCON champions Senegal present the best opportunity for the continent’s football fans to cheer.

Cameroon
The Indomitable Lions will make their eighth World Cup appearance in Qatar, but it has been 32 years since that historic run to the quarterfinals when they announced themselves to the world. While the nostalgia of Roger Milla dancing pitchside in celebration of his goals has become a totem of football history, the Lions have failed to build on the lofty legacy of that team at subsequent tournaments.
Cameroon have not won a match at the World Cup since 2002, and the last time they played, against Brazil, they suffered an on-field implosion. This year they have an illustrious partnership in the boardroom and in the dugout with legends Samuel Eto’o and Rigobert Song calling the shots. Could this unity of purpose help galvanize the team of Vincent Aboubakar and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting?
In Group G they face Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland. The Lions have a decent chance to make it through to the Round of 16 but it will be an uphill task.

Prediction: Round of 16
Ghana

The Black Stars return to the World Cup after missing out in 2018. They return with hopes of reaching the great heights of 2010, when they were just moments from a semifinal place before Luis Suarez stole victory from them.
Though Suarez is now a veteran, it will still be an intriguing rematch against Uruguay when they meet on December 2.
This Ghana team does not have the big talents of Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari, but it has Thomas Partey. The Arsenal midfielder is the team’s sole world-class star. With heart and hard work they could make a splash in Qatar but it will be difficult to see this low scoring team reaches the Round of 16 in a group that also has Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and South Korea.

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Prediction: Group stage
Morocco

The Atlas Lions came through qualifying looking imperious, only dropping points in one of eight matches. They will return for their sixth World Cup appearance with the hopes of reaching the Round of 16 for the first time since 1986. Despite their talent, Morocco only managed a draw at Russia 2018. Achraf Hakimi’s ability is clear, but Morocco have struggled on the big stage in the past, which makes it is difficult to see them getting out of a group that includes the 2018 semifinalists Belgium, finalists Croatia and upstarts Canada. We may witness another Morocco side that fails to roar.

Prediction: Group stage
Senegal

The Teranga Lions are absolutely Africa’s brightest hopes of reaching the latter stages of the tournament. The reigning African champions are returning to the World Cup after failing to realise their potential in Russia in 2018, where they sadly missed the Round of 16 based on fair-play points.
Coaching consistency has seen them keep the core of the team built around Sadio Mane and Kalidou Koulibaly. The addition of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has turned them into a team that’s difficult to beat, even if they don’t score many. In Group A against hosts and Asian champions Qatar, Ecuador and the Netherlands, they have every reason to be optimistic about reaching the knockouts. Perhaps this team can even match the illustrious side of 2002.

Prediction: Quarterfinals
Tunisia

The Carthage Eagles are notorious for qualifying without much fuss but never making a statement on the big stage. They reached Qatar 2022 through a freak own goal in a 1-0 aggregate win over Mali. Their campaign in Russia 2018 saw them win only their second game against Panama, but they lost to Belgium and England. Tunisia are an aging side, with Wahbi Khazri and Youssef Msakni leading their attack. In a Group D that includes reigning champions France and Denmark, as well as a yet to be decided team, Tunisia’s chances of advancing are very slim.

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