Will Rio 2014 turn out to be the stage perceptions about african national teams are redefined

June 8, 2014 5:55 pm0 comments by:


I often wonder whether it is practically possible to over prepare for a challenge. If so, can over preparation be counterproductive or a disadvantage just like under preparation. It is very clear like daylight that under preparation for a competition reduces your chances for success. You increase your chances of success with good preparation behind you.
2014 FIFA World cup starts in a few days on 12th June 2014 with the hosts Brazil playing Croatia. The hosts look prepared for the challenges that await them in the Group stages. Mexico and Cameroon make up Group A. Cameroon  national team is one of the 5 African teams representing the continent in this year’s World Cup. The perception outside the continent is that Croatia and Mexico will be competing for runner ups behind Brazil. Cameroon  have been completely dismissed as challengers to qualify from the Group.
Cameroon or African fans will disagree and argue a case against such perception. However, the stats does not make good reading for Cameroon national team fans. They have not qualified from the Group stages for a significant number of years and struggled in the previous outing 2010 World Cup. Football is a team sports and it is not a sign of ignorance to think that the best team does not always win. I can provide a recent example where a team has won a match against all odds. A well prepared team can beat the odds. This good perception about Cameroon’s chances also applies to the other 4 African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Algeria)
The reasons behind the prediction is that all the 5 teams appear to have prepared better than previous outings. The teams have kept the managers that coached them at least from the last qualifying match. The continuity with management, a basic ingredient for other continent national teams helps with preparation plans and a successful outcome. They have been minimum bad or disharmony among the teams heading to the 2014 world cup. This is definitely a plus for the players, coach and fans. In the past, you hear about long protracted internal disagreements between country football associations and the players.
Injuries, lack of match fitness or form to key players is another constant issue that prevails among all national teams. The difference is the impact on the African national teams playing to their best. It is simply a case that squad is not deep enough to allow managers to field a strong squad. One or two African teams have a pool of talented players but lack the international match experience. The lack of experience does hinder ability to compete at the highest level and achieve success. These issues prevalent in the past appear to be in control going towards the first match as all 5 managers have close to their best team squad.
Finally, the friendly results are encouraging across the board. Cameroon have lost only one to Paraguay and drew 2-2 with Germany. Cote d Ivoire, Nigeria and Algeria have also lost one in three. The good results are possible only if you prepare well. The coaches have also instilled discipline that was majorly lacking  within African national teams. It is an issue that even the players have secretly and lately publicly blamed for the bad outing on the previous world cups.
In the past, the 5 African teams competing have brought in individual players that rely more on their skill level. The managers have not been in position to insert discipline or devise the best strategy to complement the technical skills. However, the continuity with the coaches has helped to instil discipline and maintain it. The preparations are good, the coaching has improved and confidence high with results. Therefore, why do the experts with this information at their disposal still believe that none of the 5 African teams will qualify from the group stages?
The answer may lie in the possibility that old habits take time to die. Cameroon had to settle a financial dispute before flying to Brazil . The lack of depth in the attacking forwards, high defensive errors and quality of the opposition teams. The combination of these factors with the relative low international experience for most of the players in the Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Algeria team. It  means they face a tough task to qualify from group stages.

International football is different from friendlies or club football and there are fewer chances to score, so it is paramount to have potent attacking force and make less mistakes in defence to win a match.Cote d’Ivoire, who have a better balanced squad are in a tougher Group. In addition, the weather in Brazil has been talked about as a major issue. African national teams have been known to play attacking football with lots of physicality. This is  one of their strengths but takes a lot  of energy to implement in a competitive match.  If the weather is very hot  then football players have to be conservative with their attacking runs.
The hope is that the good preparation, team discipline, individual creativity and better match tactics will overcome the weaknesses. It is possible that one or two of the 5 African teams can rise to the challenge and strike a pose. If they do so, they will stand a chance of redefining the perceptions about African national teams.
It is time for the players to make history and a put smiles on their fans faces.

Obioma Aguocha
Self Publisher:The Guide to being the Best(Paperback) 2007 &Sporting Success Simplified (E-book) 2012


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