Can an African side outdo Bafana Bafana?

Chris McGrath looks at the prospects for the continent's five other contenders


Algeria


Rabah Sasaane, the obdurate and emotional veteran now in his fifth stint as national coach, has incensed his captain, Yazid Mansouri, by omitting him from the starting XI against Slovenia – a match where victory would seem imperative for either side to progress. Mansouri is said to have threatened a walkout.

Pretty awful in their recent 3-0 friendly defeat by Ireland, the suspicion persists that Algeria's febrile play-off success against Egypt has robbed Africa of its most plausible contenders. Certainly Egypt looked far superior in avenging that defeat with a 4-0 thrashing in the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations. Nadir Belhadj is suspended today as a legacy of that game. At least Karim Ziani, a French-born playmaker, belongs to the same zone as Zizou, but the Desert Foxes badly need something extra – too bad they can't call on Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri.

Cameroon

Exorbitantly dependent on Samuel Eto'o, who underlined the disparities between his career and those of his team-mates by reportedly buying each one a £29,000 watch as a reward for qualifying. Eto'o showed his temperamental side in threatening to quit after a spat with Roger Milla, and he knows that he has yet to exorcise the hero of 1990 in the national colours. But Paul Le Guen has made him captain, in the hope that he exalts his compatriots, rather than gaze down on them in despair – and he certainly sounds motivated by a World Cup on African soil. "I might live in Europe, but I sleep in Africa," he said. "This generation of players is too great not to aim high. My job is to convince them it's possible, not one of Samuel's daydreams." Le Guen managed to avoid the retribution visited on the coaches of Nigeria and the Ivory Coast after similar disappointment at the Africa Cup of Nations, but arrives under pressure after Cameroon failed to win any of their warm-up matches.

Ghana

Impressed in 2006, beating the US and Czech Republic before bumping into Brazil in the second round, and made qualifying look far easier than most African nations. They enjoyed a much more productive workout in Angola in January, thwarted only by Egypt in the final. Milovan Rajevac, plucked from obscurity in the Serbian league, will relish organising his men against his native land tomorrow and can be depended on to take a tough, pragmatic approach to what admittedly looks a tough, pragmatic group. Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah will be expected to make their experience count among a solid bloc of five midfielders – grievously weakened by the injury to Michael Essien – while the young solo striker, Asamoah Gyan, has been candid in saying he wants to put himself in the Premier League shop window. This seems a less factious squad than some, with players huddling to sing together at the end of training sessions, though a late change of hotel reinforced a reputation for volatility.

Ivory Coast

Their captain and attacking focus, Didier Drogba, has not yet been ruled out of Tuesday's opening game against Portugal. The Chelsea striker suffered a fracture in his arm playing a friendly against Japan eight days ago but stayed on after surgery and resumed non-contact training yesterday. Either way, the Ivorians are again in tough company, having drawn Argentina, Holland and Serbia when making their tournament debut in 2006. They have also had a jittery preparation and were deplorable in the Africa Cup of Nations, promptly discarding Vahid Halilhodzic as coach to rush in Sven Goran Eriksson to add some Nordic phlegm. But the Touré brothers and Salomon Kalou have elite club savvy and the young gun, Seydou Doumbia, is strong and quick and could yet seize his moment after scoring 55 goals in two seasons in Switzerland.

Nigeria

Another qualifier to have failed to impress in the Africa Cup of Nations, and like the Ivory Coast, turned to Sweden for a cool hand on the tiller. Lars Lagerback supervised his homeland to five consecutive tournaments before failing to reach this one, but his new charges had made very heavy weather of qualifying. They had to win their last game – which they did, in desperate style – while relying on results going their way elsewhere.

It was a far cry from 1994, when the Super Eagles were two minutes from the last eight. That team went on to win Olympic gold and suggested African football to be on the brink of a defining breakthrough, but they look a rather more bedraggled set of fowl nowadays, with the creaking Nwankwo Kanu the only survivor.

With John Obi Mikel succumbing to Chelsea's World Cup curse, Lagerback may bid to stem Argentina's creative menace tomorrow with three defensive midfielders, including Dickson Etuhu of Fulham.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering