2014 African world cup qualifiers need a balanced squad and tactics not which nations are in their draw

December 7, 2013 5:39 pm0 comments by:

1270583_FULL-LNDThe draw for 2014 World Cup was held on Friday 5th December 2013. Cameroon is in Group A with hosts Brazil, Croatia and Mexico. Group B include Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia. Ivory Coast is in Group C that includes Colombia, Greece and Japan. There is no African nation in Group D Uruguay, Costa Rica, England and Italy. Group E has Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras. Nigeria has been drawn in Group F to meet again Argentina. Bosnia-Hercegovina and Iran complete the group. Ghana has the toughest draw playing against Germany, Portugal, Ghana and United States in Group G. The final Group H Belgium, Algeria, Russia and South Korea

The initial review is that Ghana, Cameroon and Algeria have to play to their potential to stand a chance of qualification for Round 16. Nigeria and Ivory Coast have a better opportunity than the other 3 African nations. They also have to play well to qualify. For this to happen, the 5 coaches have to employ the right tactics and pick a balance squad not necessary best available players to Brazil.

The first step has been completed and that was to qualify and be in the draw. The next step is for the world cup qualifiers to train, prepare well and reduce long term injuries. Players have to play club football until May 2014 for fitness and maintaining skill level. They can pick up injuries during matches or even at home. Coaches hope and pray that it does not happen to their players especially key ones.
The third obstacle which is crucial is that a coach picks the best squad for the competition. In my view, this is main reason that causes a lot of disharmony in a squad and affects results. I have been in a competition albeit not a World Cup. The players picked are obviously grateful for the opportunity to represent their country. In my case, it was a secondary school tournament. However, they will be honored to play in a team that complements each other skills sets. It is very frustrating to play alongside a team mate who in your view does not have a team ethic. You overall feeling is that the team will not play to their potential.

I am not saying that the assessment of player should be made by a single player. I mean a collective group of the team having a similar view about a player or two. It is only on a rare occasion that a majority of squad, who feel another player should have been called up, gets it wrong. Football is a team sports irrespective of global emphasis on star players like Messi, Ronaldo,Ribery and recently Gareth Bale. All the 5 African nations that will compete in the World Cup have star players but team mates play an important supporting role.

It is well documented the lack of international success for most African nations. At every World Cup, football analysts predict and fans hope for breakthrough in performance and successful outcome. Ghana gave us a clue in South Africa 2010 that it is possible for an African nation to do well. The Black Stars qualified for the quarter final and were managed by Serbian Milovan Rajevac.
The overall assessment of the team was that it was a balanced team and exhibited the right attitude.

It is also important that the right tactics was employed in their passage through the competition. The coach had international experience and knew the right tactics for each match. His impact or instructions will not have been effective without the right squad and team spirit. This shows the importance of players happy with each other and with the coach.
Since, then he has been sacked and replaced by Ghanaian Akwasi Appiah. Their 2013 record shows that the current coach is guiding the team safely against African nations. However, the team is struggling against International teams, drew 2-2 against Turkey in August 2013. Then, the Black Stars lost to Japan 3-1 in September 2013. Whilst it is a friendly match, it gives a clue to their potential. In 2013, only Mali in the 3rd place African Cup of Nations has scored 3 goals against Ghana.

Ivory Coast, (The Elephants) is another team with a good squad but has not fortified their potential in the past. They have a new manager Sabri Lamouchi aged 42 and signs indicate lack of international or managerial experience will be the biggest challenge to overcome. He replaced Sven Goran Eriksson, who has both international and managerial experience. However, he could not guide the squad to qualify from their group.

Paul Le Guan managed Cameroon in the last World Cup and the Indomitable Lions record was woeful. The team employed a new manager in April 2013 Volke Finke has to overcome internal dispute within FECAFOOT and also his ability to pick the correct squad. In my view, the current squad is not balanced and lack in most matches the belief in each other.

Algeria (The Fenec Foxes) has also changed stewardship since the last world cup and new coach will have to prove his worth. Vahid Halihodzic helped Ivory Coast to qualify for 2010 World Cup but was replaced by Sven Goran Eriksson for the tournament. Algeria is the only team that really needs more than ever the right tactics. The squad has most of the squad playing at home and need assistance to bridge any weakness for lack of exposure to European football. The previous coach Rabah Sadane took a similar team to South Africa and lost 2 and draw 1.

Nigeria Super Eagles have the longest serving manager in Stephen Keshi. His challenge is to decide on the best balanced team. He has shown especially in 2013 ability to pick the right tactics against African nations. However, he lacks international managerial experience. He has pitted his wits against European and South American nations in the Confederation Cup and lost.

I understand that there is argument for an international coach to have a varied knowledge. However, the African Nations perform well against the odds example in 1994 and recently in 2010. The issue to address is selecting the correct squad and not the level of international or managerial experience. Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon and many more African nations have opted for experience and performed badly. It is the squad that goes on the field to play and not the coach’s profile.

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

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