The much anticipated FIFA World Cup has kick started in Russia with teams settled in and ready for serious business , Our guest witer at Sportsration.com, Ebube Chima takes a look at how Africa’s representative are faring after the first round of matches.
Egypt were the first African nation to take center stage against Uruguay, with talisman Mohammed Salah still recuperating from shoulder injury Egypt had no choice but to look up to other players for motivation, skipper Ahmed Fatty, Hegazi and Gabr were saddled with the responsibility of stopping Uruguayan onslaught of Cavani and Suarez. The Egyptians played amazingly well in the game, not allowing their opponent ride over them, matching them pace for pace and strength for strength until they switched off in the last minute of the game when Carlos Sanchez free kick was met by Jose Gimenez header to dash Egypt hope of attaining a draw in their first World Cup match in 28 years.
For Morocco, Havre Rennard side were the next African side on parade in Russia and they were to face Iran, among the five African side in Russia. Morocco had the easiest fixture on paper and one won’t be wrong to habe expected nothing short of a victory from the North Africans.
Carlos Queiroz who is not new to defensive style of play set up his side to curtail series of attack thrown at them by the North Africans, substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz was unfortunate to head in Ehsan Haji Safi’s free kick into his net just when we all taught the game was going to end in a stalemate. The lose was Havre Rehinnard first competitive defeat in 16 games while also ensuring Carlos Queiroz still remained undefeated against African opposition. With this result it is now more difficult for Morocco to come out of group B as they have Portugal and Spain to face in the remaining fixtures of the group.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria had a date with the Croats In Kaliningrad, it wasn’t a five star performance from the Croatians as they virtually did not have to struggle to score against the 3 times African Champion, midfilder Etebo was unlucky to deflect Mario Manzukic header into the net early in the first half and yet again the Super Eagles were punished from set piece something every Nigerian would have expected the coach and his team to work on. The Nigerian side started brightly in the second half seeking for an equalizer but sloppy defending from Troost Ekong man handling Mario Manzukic in a Croatian corner led to the refree awarding penalty to the Croats which was converted by skipper Luka Modric was enough to disorganize the Nigerian side who looked uninterested in the game and can’t wait for final whistle. The lose meant African sides have all conceded from set piece and sloppy defending making us wonder when the Africa’s first victory in the tourney come from
Desert Eagles of Tunisia had an encounter with the young three lions of England, yet another African side on display with the continent full behind her hoping at least a goal would be gotten from Tunisia. The English side bossed possession as the game started and it was looking like another de ja vu happening all over again, Harry Kane’s brace both coming from set piece situation ensured Africa suffered her third straight defeat in the tourney only consolation was Farjani Sassi penalty in the first half registering Africa its first goal in Russia but it waqs not enough as they succumbed to the European side who were more clinical in the game albeit, this has always been Africa’s problem so far in the tournament.
There is no one else more suited for the job than former Senegalese player and a vital member of the nation’s most reverend team who got to the quarter final of the FIFA World cup in Korea/Japan 2002, Aliou Cisse. Not only is he the youngest coach in the tournament, he is also the only black coach in Russia 2018, that must have been what made him spur his boys into victory handling the continent her first 3 points in Russia and also defeating an European team in the process. Cisse managed African physicality and pace adequately employing this tactics to keep the deadly Lewandoski quiet all through the duration of the game with his players ensuring the mistake of not converting your opportunities when its presented to you not repeat itself like in the case of other African countries who played before Senegal did. The joy they did bring to the continent could be felt all over social media as people from far and wide praised the Senegalese for bringing joy to the continent.
Athough it is glaring that African team lack the impetus to defend properly in set piece situation, this is evident in all the matches each representative of the continent played,all conceded a goal from set piece including the Senegalese team which means moving forward Africa’s representatives in the tourney must properly implement hoe to defend set piece and also take advantage of set piece in the opposition half. With the win from Senegal, its enough to spur and motivate the continent representatives into performing better and giving hundred and twenty percent when the situation arises.