World Cup: The African flair and freedom movement; THE DAVID GINOLA COLUMN

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The Independent Online
IT HAS BEEN a good start for the World Cup and for Africa it could be tremendous. The future is still unknown but their countries in this tournament have already shown that it is part of their dream. I don't think one of them can win it but they have given us some fantastic pleasure already.

The goal scored by Pierre Njanka for Cameroon was easily the best so far. It had the dribble, the vision, the power and then the strike to ensure it went past the goalkeeper. This was only his third international. It is possible that the World Cup might have a more spectacular goal but I don't think it will be scored by a defender.

Cameroon's game against Austria was a little boring for a long time in the first half but the last 20 minutes were exciting. Maybe this isn't so surprising. Cameroon are a very young side. Most of their players are under 23 and this is the World Cup, the biggest competition there is. But when they relaxed they were a different side and in four or eight years' time they will be mature.

Maybe they have to learn a bit about concentration and staying focused, not just on the ball but on the players, in the closing stages. Cameroon were unlucky, like Morocco on the opening night, not to win but in some ways it was their own fault because they just forgot to defend at a really important time.

Morocco play a little like Brazil. All of their players have fantastic skills with the ball and this also will be good for the World Cup. Both their goals against Norway had vision and a lot of flair but the team also forgot to concentrate afterwards. I think Moustafa Hadji's goal was thrilling and so were the celebrations but then they did not defend.

We all know a team like Norway are very good in the air and at free-kicks near the 18-yard box. They have to be defended against but sometimes it is not easy when they keep coming at you. I don't know how far Morocco are capable of going, or Cameroon either, but they have been a credit to Africa. Their football is improving year by year. But as they showed in yesterday's marvellous victory over Spain, Nigeria will be the best African side. One of the usual powerful nations will come through, but perhaps it is too early to say.

What has truly pleased me about the opening stages of this World Cup has been the way the players have played. They have been mostly full of freedom and movement and almost all the early games have had something. There have not been too many tackles to stop proper playing, which is good, and the referees are allowing play to flow. There is rhythm and motion.

Morocco and Cameroon were interesting but maybe the player I have enjoyed watching the most so far was Marcelo Salas. In the end Chile's first game was good for them and good for Italy but it was Chile who deserved to win. At Wembley, when Chile beat England, Salas was in a different class and this he showed again. He is quick and strong and when the ball is in sight he is the master of the situation. He got two goals and he heads the ball like Pele. If Chile do well in the World Cup then Salas will do well too.

Italy are not finished yet. They are just doing their usual trick of starting slowly like they did in the USA last time when they lost the first game but still reached the final. But they kept going and they made their contribution to an interesting match. What a moment it was for Roberto Baggio to take a penalty in the World Cup again. He struck it well and it was a tremendous thing for him when it went in.

I was very proud about the Scottish performance. They really deserved a draw and it was a sad goal that Brazil scored to win. Scotland have fighting spirit. Brazil still managed to have my heart racing sometimes. When Leonardo and Denilson came on it was fresh air, a good swap by the manager.

Ronaldo will be fantastic but it is clear that he will miss Romario. It is very important for forwards to have an understanding with each other. Ronaldo has this affinity with Romario. They know how to time runs together and when to dribble and where to run when the ball is played on the left or the right. Ronaldo does not have this relationship with Bebeto and this could be a difficult thing for them to overcome.

It is impossible to make any secure prediction about the future of this World Cup finals until we have seen all the teams in action, but what we have witnessed so far has been full of promise. Teams have not been afraid of each other even though they know the World Cup is everything. I have been excited by these first days but we will have a clearer idea of how things are going to turn out next week.

David Ginola was talking

to StephenBrenkley