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World Cup 2002 Korea Japan Special: An African champion?
 > World Cup 2002 Korea Japan Special Index

 1994 and 1998 have been the worst World Cups for Africa since 1974, considering the winning percentage (wins/game with draw=0.5 win). Nigeria twice made it to the last 16 but their 1998 campaign as was the 1994 of Cameroon was marred by arguments over player bonusses while Morocco was just unlucky. 
Africa had been predicted a golden future but suddenly the upswing seems halted. 

The progress Africa has made in the last three decades. Some points

The progress Africa has made in the last three decades lies in the information on the game more than in the skill how to play it. 2 Also the adaption of the idea of winning a football game by goals instead of having fun by playing and watching playing became a fact of modern African football. It went that far that it even damaged the African game for a moment when Nations Cup matches became defensive struggles. 

 Africa did not have TV when people in Europe already had. There was no cinema to watch football games in. There were only stories and rumours. So when an African side had to face an intercontinental match or tournament it was a bigger adventure than anybody in Europe can imagine. Most players were homebased, the stars in Europe took on the nationality of the country they played at. Most famous example is Eusebio from Mozambique who became a star for Portugal. 

 So most of these home based players had not ever seen an European match before traveling abroad. Nobody could guide them. Africa did not have a coaching tradition. Because of colonialisation by Europeans nearly all African countries did not exist before 1960. So no players had international or intercontinental experience. There was no generation who could pass on their experiences. The Europeans had not been interested in building 'national forces' and International friendly matches especially on another continent could hardly be afforded. And so football as an international competition began late and slow for Africa. The well known example is the world cup desaster of Zaire 1974. 

 First possibility to qualify was 1966 but FIFA did not grant Africa more than one joint berth for one single team together with Asia. Africa boycottet. So, with the exception of the long Egypt tradition 3 , African World cup history began 1970 with Morocco. The North African states, closer to Europe, with better facilities and better organisation did better than Zaire would do four years later. The Zairians were confronted with the less positive sides of German hospitality. The home press and the home fans seemed to like the Zairians fit well into their desired racist metapher of stupid, monkey-eating half-animals who did not even know the rules. Zaire had a terrible World Cup that was not representative for the standard African game and that even was not as bad as the results suggested. Their failure seemed to confirm all prejudices and espacially in Germany, the 1974 host, made Africans the clowns of football until Anthony Yeboah in the early Nineties regained the respect for African football. The people saw what they wanted to see and they felt confirmed in their racism. Unlike in the big colonial powers, especially in France, the interest for Africa and Africans was zero. 

 Even Germany's 1:2 loss to Algeria 1982 and the 0:0 against Tunisia 1978 were not seen as a sign of strength of the Africans but as a lack of concentration against the minnows. And it had been North African teams. The Cameroon world cup campaign of 1982 (Cameroon went out undefeated in the first round only by scoring a goal less than Italy, the later world champion) was not paid the necessary attention to. 

1982 was the real coming out: Cameroon and Algeria had made 7:5 points total in their group matches and had not lost even one of the matches against the later world champions (Cameroon-Italy 1:1), runners up (Algeria-Germany 2:1) and third (Cameroon-Poland 0:0). They had been eliminated unlucky by the seeding before the draw (as 'minnows' they were guaranteed stronger opponents while favorites are usually guaranteed weaker opponents), inexperience (Cameroon were too shy especially in the first match fearing the Zaire experience), tough luck (the mode allowed Germany and Austria the famous 'fake' game and Cameroon was not allowed a clear goal against Peru).

So for the European public the real wake up bang came in the opening match 1990. Cameroon beat Argentina and played a formidable World Cup. Everything now was turned downside up. Africas possibilities were seen as great. Players from Africa came into every league and young talents were hunted by modern slave traders. 

Everything was put into a different context. Although from the win-per-game point of view the 1994 and 1998 World Cups were the worst for Africa since 1974, their World Cup contingent was expanded to five starters. A little compansion for the era when Africa was put at a disadvantage and limited in its development (see documentation below). 

 Africa is beginning to have coaching tradition, information and a self-confidence that is grounded on success in the game. This is the big progress Africa made and that was the big difference of the World Cup campaigns of Cameroon 1990 and Nigeria 1994. But this does not necessarily be valid for all African teams as the following points will make clear. 

 When you look at a Nations Cup competition African football power relations seem structured similar to the European ones. A similar number of countries, a similar number of superpowers, a similar number of medium weights and a similar number of outsiders. 
 But having only one or two World Cup starters despite doing well, (espacially when compared to Asia and apart from 1974), it was difficult for a particular team to develop. Imagine, Europe had only two starters, for example the first two of the European Championship, England had not had been seen at a World Cup for thirty years. So here was Ghana. They won the African Cup of Nations four times but never were allowed to learn and experience at a World Cup tournament. 

 Big steps were taken in the late Seventies and in the Eighties.Youth teams were built and the national teams improved. But this development seems to have slowed down or even has been inverted by economical pressures. African states are in a bad economical situation and so are the Football Associations. Arguments over money, gouvernment interferences, rotten facilities and so on. The youth teams get neglected, the best talents already scouted by European football club farms. Countries pull out of competions because they run out of money and can not afford to pay the travel costs for away matches. From this point of view Africa now is more on the way down than on the way up. At least it needs help. 

 On the other hand a generation of African players established itself as professionals in Europe and is getting closer to European knowledge and standards. They are able to help and teach at home in the future, to guide their national teams now. From this point of view, Africa is on the way up. But these players have to be integrated in the system. 

 Also you can not Africa see as one. There are differences, espacially between North Africa and the rest but also among the others. Think of Chad that cannot play any internationals. Think of South Africa with top facilities. 

 There are the better organised campaigns of North Africa. North Africas semi professional clubs dominate the African club competitions because they are much better organised, not because Tunisian individual players are more skilful than their Nigerian counterparts. 
 Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia all play on a very good level and are able to keep it, but they don't seem capable to match with a team like Nigeria when Nigeria reaches its performance peak. But they are more consistent. They are well organised on and off the pitch while many other African teams alter genius and dilettantism. This leads to the phenomena that a team like Tunisia beats talented African teams in the qualification because of its disciplined, oganised game. But when then confronted with other similar well organised teams, there have to beat them by their skills. 

 Teams like Cameroon and Senegal have started to accomplish some combination.
 It used to be different when Cameroon 1994 was able to show both faces in one game (against Sweden), when they were able to make a hughe impact 1990 and lose 1:6 to Russia only 4 years later.

 So you might have read that Africa has made huge progress in the basic knowledge of the game, has an army of well educated players, educated and shaped into form in the professional clubs of Europe. You might have read that in the same time Africas general problems are reflected in the problems of the football (associations) south of the Sahara, and while Europes associations further progessed, in Africa there has been a stagnation in infrastructural questions. The exodus of players has built a class of travelling players that manage an African interpretation of the European game. They include some of a new generation that was already born f.e. at France and then decide to play for the country of their roots. But when they turn home for their National teams they face other problems than in Europe.

 No question, Africas way up will continue. But the set back caused by the political and economical situation will slow down the process. What will boost Africas chances on the other hand is that the share of starters has increased from 6% until 1978 to 15,6% 1998. This just makes it almost three times as likely an African team will come through as it has been once then. Simply for mathematical reasons, unregarding the strength of the teams, the growth of experience for single teams to be enabled to play back to back World Cups etc.

 Africas possible way to the top 2002 seems directly connected to the taking part at the 'industrial revolution' of football inside the European clubs in which many of the African players are under contract. It is also their problem: the administration of the teams is still run in their home countries in which often a hysterical reaction to results influences the decisions. Many problems occur from the gap between the homebased thinking and the 'European professional view'.

 Three of five starters 2002 arrive with just having fired their coaches. South Africa nad Tunisia with a mixed squad from home based players and 'European' professionals.
 A closer look on the five teams you will find
here in the second part.

Diagrams and figures

A. How Africa did in their best phase 82-90
The following table is taken from the document How Africa was put at disatvantage at World Cups until 1994 from The Shot That Passed Right Through The Net archives. It gives an introduction how tables and statistics can deceive and it proves by mathematical evidence that Africa had deserved more places at the World Cup already much earlier. 
In this table you can see the winning percentage (win per game played, draw is 0.5) of all intercontinental matches (Europe vs. Africa, Europe vs. Asia etc.) played at World Cup finals 1982-1990. (Taking matches Europe vs. Europe into account would only shift the numbers closer to 0.500 because every win then is a loss, too). 
The good opinion on Africa obviously came with considerable delay.

                Games    W  T  L         Goals  pct. 
1.EUROPE          81    38 23 20        135-84  0.611 
2.SOUTH-AMER      49    21 13 15         67-56  0.561 
3.AFRICA          21     6  8  7         18-24  0.476 
4.NTH/CTL-AM      21     5  4 12         15-37  0.333 
5.ASIA            15     0  2 13         10-34  0.067 
6.AUSTR/OCEA       3     0  0  3          2-12  0.000
B. How Africas number of places improved 78-98
Winning percentage is one story, advancing to the second round another. The idea is the following:
Lets assume there are 4 superpowers at each World Cup. 
This leaves a particular number (1978 8, 1982 12, 1986-1998 16) minus four (result: 1978 4, 1982 8, 1986-1998 12) of second round places for the entire rest to compete for realistically (the seeding backslash does get compensated to some extent this way).
So for example in 1998 there were 12 places left in the second round while 16 teams had to go home, which is 43% of the (non-superpower) teams advancing. 
So an average result for Africa would be to have 43% of their 5 teams advancing to the second round, which would be 2.14 teams.
Only one did advance eventually which can be called a saturation of 
1 / 2.14 = 47%.
year African starters 2nd round should see 2nd round saw saturation
1978 1/16 = 6.25% 0.33 teams 0 team 0%
1982* 2/24 = 8.33% 0.67 team(s) 0 team 0%
1986 2/24 = 8.33% 1 team 1 team 100%
1990 2/24 = 8.33% 1 team 1 team 100%
1994 3/24 = 12.5 % 1.5 teams 1 team 67%
1998 5/32 = 15.6 % 2.14 teams 1 team 47%
*1982 has been played by a different mode

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