This week began the journey for five African countries to determine their chances for soccer glory in the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
It is no doubt that African players are capable like their counterparts in the world. Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Algeria and Ghana will begin their campaign to demonstrate to the rest of the world how much Africa has learned from previous campaigns in the World Cup.
It is no argument that the last two World Cups showed how far African nations could exert their influence on the game particularly when Ghana kept the tradition to reach the quarter-finals’ stage but losing when there was every chance to have continued the forward match and rewrite the history of the world’s global sport.
Since Ghana’s impressive performance in the last World Cup, much has been done by Africa; and the rest of the world can no longer underestimate our strength.
However, the Brazil World Cup’s groupings placed at least Ghana in what has been described as the Group of Death, suggesting Ghana’s survival might be slim by the bookmakers.
Grouped with Portugal, Germany and the United States, Ghana begins her campaign on Monday against the United States. Historically, the Americans have not fared well against Ghana, having been eliminated on two previous occasions. The Americans are coming into Monday’s game; having prepared real well to ensure that they are not shocked by Ghana. Though many skeptics don’t see Ghana’s way clear in the group but judging with their resilience, there is the likelihood that some of the wonders of soccer might happen on Monday.
Cameroon is in Group A with host Brazil, Croatia and Mexico and Cote d’Ivoire is in Group C with Colombia, Greece and Japan.
Algeria is in Group H with Belgium, Russia and South Korea and Nigeria is in Group F with Argentina, Iran and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The rest of Africa hopes our representatives will survive the group stages and push forward despite the seemingly tasks ahead.
Can Africa overcome the difficulty and move beyond its traditional quarter-finals stage? That is a question that many Africans are asking but will have to wait after their group stages to be surely convinced of any such possibility.
In any case, with the best of the world’s footballers assembling at the land where football is associated with the Samba dance of Brazil, soccer fans can be assured of some of the most entertaining soccer displays the world has ever witnessed in living memory.
Tonight’s opening match between host, Brazil and Croatia, many fans suggest, could see the Brazilian Samba in action at the 44,000 capacity at the Arena da Amazonia in Manuas.
But the most expected match for Africans would be the match between Mexico and Cameroon tomorrow; Nigeria and Iran on Monday and Ghana and USA also on Monday at the 43,000 capacity stadium at the Arena das Dunas.
With the world’s attention on Brazil, let’s hope that football authorities in Liberia can learn some vital lessons as observers to give life to the game at home.
STADIUM: Arena da Baixada (capacity: 41,456) in the city of Curitiba
The Arena da Baixada was originally constructed in 1914, but underwent refurbishment in 1999 and once more when Brazil was chosen as World Cup host. The second-most southerly city of the 12 venues behind Porto Alegre, Curitiba has 1.8 million inhabitants. It is one of the biggest economic hubs in Brazil. It has a similar climate to Rio and Belo Horizonte, with temperatures expected to reach the mid-20s, and there will be next to no humidity either.
June 16, 2014 20:00 Iran v Nigeria – Group F
June 20, 2014 23:00 Honduras v Ecuador – Group E
June 23, 2014 17:00 Australia v Spain – Group B
June 26, 2014 21:00 Algeria v Russia – Group H
STADIUM: Arena Pantanal (capacity: 42,968) in the city of Cuiba
Especially built for the World Cup, the Arena Pantanal will host four matches during the tournament. Located in western Brazil, Cuiaba is just south of the Amazon rainforest, but it still retains a humid atmosphere so will feel muggy throughout the World Cup. Nicknamed the ‘Green City’ due to the vast national park that surrounds it, Cuiaba is popular with tourists, but they rarely visit in the Brazilian summer as temperatures can hit above 40 degrees centigrade.
June 13, 2014 23:00 Chile v Australia – Group B
June 17, 2014 23:00 Russia v Korea Republic – Group H
June 21, 2014 23:00 Nigeria v Bosnia-Herzegovina – Group F
June 24, 2014 21:00 Japan v Colombia – Group C