Beware of The Black Stars & The Elephants…
With the 2010 World Cup draw just made, I thought there was no better time for some bold predictions. It was Pelé who once said – in that conceited manner of his – that an African nation would win the World Cup before Y2K. Then again he once infamously predicted Columbia would win USA ’94, explaining why most of his prophecies ever since have always lacked any sort of credence.
That said, his prediction, albeit some ten years off, now seems a distinct possibility. When Nigeria won the Olympic Gold medal in 1996, and when Cameroon won it 4 years later, many cited it as some sort of signifier. If neither victory prompted a significant shift in power on the International stage, then the sudden influx of Africans playing for Europe’s elite clubs certainly implies they are lingering on the cusp of something monumental.
My prediction then is simple. A host nation will win the inaugural World Cup on African soils. Home advantage and climate have always been pivotal factors in deciding World Cups, and altitude will no doubt play its part. Couple this with the undying support of a football hungry continent and it is a tried-and-tested recipe for success. Host nations have nearly always overachieved, and this has invariably triggered euphoric backing from their home supporters. South Africa won’t win it, but as a Nigerian taxi driver has just enlightened me on my way home this evening, there is a campaign happening right now in Africa, basically urging the whole of Africa to unite and get behind any African team left in the competition. I can only imagine the ramifications of this, and I’m certain it could be the catalyst that sees the famous trophy in African hands at long last.
Of course Spain will go in as favourites, and Germany & Brazil will inevitably be there or thereabouts. However, we saw the warning signs when Spain were convincingly beaten by USA, last summer in the Confederations Cup. Brazil & Germany have looked better also. Then, of course, there is England who you cannot write off completely. Spain aside, they have the best team on paper, but I’m sure their biggest opponent will be the climate, particularly the high altitude.
After finally recovering from the injustice France inflicted on the Irish Republic, I’ll be rooting for the African teams to succeed in next year’s main event. With Drogba, the Toure’s, & Kalou all in fine fettle, Ivory Coast strikes me as the obvious contenders. Nevertheless, this evening’s draw has not been kind on Les Éléphants (grouped with Brazil & Portugal – which will undoubtedly have the monopoly on the inevitable ‘group of death’ clichés) and I am subsequently going with Ghana. The Black Stars have players sprinkled all over Europe’s top teams, and the inside scoop in Africa suggests they are strong favourites for the African Nations in Jan, and to go furthest in South Africa this summer.
Ghana tasted success recently when they became the first African Nation to win the Fifa Under 20 World Cup in October 2009 (beating Brazil in the final), which has typically been a sign of great things to come.
It is sure to be a fascinating spectacle, and the prospect of an African home victory is more than just another Péle pie in the sky apparition. The Spanish, the Brazilians, and the Italians et al, had all better be weary. (Sorry I’ve not been around much lately!)