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World Cup 2002 Korea Japan Special: Africas 5 - A review
 > World Cup 2002 Korea Japan Special Index

World Cup 2002 Review
A closer look at the African results
1. Africa 
2. Tunisia
3. Nigeria
4. Cameroon
5. South Africa
6. Senegal
7. Tendencies: Facts and figures


Africa seem the losers of the 2002 World Cup, and a trend that seems to have been visible during the 90s has been confirmed.
African teams are no riddle anymore to their counterparts. More organisation means also better predictability, more familiar football logics of the opponency, less chaos in positive and negative interpretation.
The questions African teams pose to their opponents nowadays are not strange anymore, the times of altering 1:0's and 0:4's seem replaced by the times of 1:1's and 0:2's. 
No wonder, the African top players play at Europe as their counterparts on World Cup level, but they are found only in small number at the true club giants, where other nationalities have far more players.

The least qualificants for the second round, the worst intercontinental record, and the sole three wins in 15 games of the first round coming by a narrow 1:0.
Of course things have to be seen more differenciated and each of the 5 starters in 2002 have their own individual story, their own individual reasons for failure (or relative success).
Until 2002 Africa could hide behind the weakness of the Asian teams, but now Africa is the only continent (apart from Oceania) left that has never seen a team in a World Cup semifinal. 
(In reality Africa indeed slightly improved from 1998 but it does not look good enough because the other small confederations improved more).
Of course Africa is the only continent (apart from Oceania) who has not had a World Cup staged at home.
Of course the differences between all teams have narrowed and so little things determine the outcome. 

But those little things, those 'if only.. ''s are not untypical to speak against the African starters.
From goalkeeping to organisation errors, from destabilisation in the build up to the tournament to lack of concentration. 
Inconsistency (on several levels) could be a general term but of course simplifies too much.

Lets look at the five from the bottom:


Tunisia - Russia 0:2, Tunisia - Belgium 1:1, Tunisia - Japan 0:2
Tunisia were there because they are the most stabile, best organised, smart footballers and management when it concerns the task to fight through the arduousnesses of the African qualifiers. 
Very talented indeed, but no way more gifted than their counterparts in Ghana or Côte d'Ivoire.
When it comes to the World Cup they lack confidence and a superior talent which would be necassery to beat opponents which are on the same organisaton level now.
This time they even had lost their stability in management around the team. Several coaching changes had shaken the squad and a Nations Cup flop in a very difficult group had shattered their confidence.
The new Tunisian coaches seemed to have done good job because Tunisa played relatively well for three halfs against Russia and Belgium before the team suddenly stopped attacking and changed the style of playing mysteriously.
Before that only a goalkeeping error and the usual difficulties in converting chances into goals had prevented a greater surprise and the North Africans had gathered a lot of sympathies.
But beginning with the second half of the Belgium game, Tunisia were hardly seen in front of their opponents goals anymore (apart from some too late attacks in both matches, against Belgium and Japan).
Consequently they left an eventual impression of harmlessness and finished the second time after 1998 as the worst African starters and an image of an no impact team.
But with the idea of hiding in a shell against implicated superior opponents and landing a lucky punch by a counter attack Tunisia will never get very far in a tournament on such a level, unless a tournament with even more hot conditions might help them.


Nigeria - Argentina 0:1, Nigeria - Sweden 1:2, Nigeria - England 0:0
Nigeria have been one of three African teams who did not wait since successful qualification to turn their team upside down and arrive with diffent coaching, different philosophy, different players etc.
No wonder the former African giants could not win anything in a group that had been labelled 'group of death' but that was not that unwinnable that a modest football power like Sweden could not win it.
Here we have hit the keyword: Sweden, disappointing failures at Euro 2000, stick to their unhysterical consistent built up and displayed a very positive teamwork and played 4 very fine matches.
Now Nigeria did not bad, but if African superpowers arrive at the World Cup to lose in dignity, gifted only a grace point by England (who had to play for a 0:0 draw to ensure qualification) there is something wrong.
But not everything was bad, maybe Nigeria should try to stick with the current setup. What is needed more than everything else is consistency.
What Nigeria needs is a goalkeeper above average. Shoronmu did extremely well in saves on the line but he kicked the ball to the Swedish leading to their winning penalty and he allowed a good number of corners fly around his nose to the second goalpost before eventually Batistuta converted one for the winner for Argentina in the first match.
Anyway it is not his fault that Nigeria did not get far.
It is like so many players stated in interviews: the consequence of years of politics in and a round the team, of inconsistency and bad preperations. Improvisation can not make up for everything. Not at the World Cup level.


Cameroon - Ireland 1:1, Cameroon - Saudi Arabia 1:0, Cameroon - Germany 0:2
Cameroon had their World Cup final against Germany and they lost it. Drawn in a very difficult group this was the crunch match for both on the way to the final.
It would have all been easier, if...
... Cameroon had not been tired against Ireland in the second half after having determined the match before. In the end they were lucky not to lose.
... Ireland had not equalised in the last minute against Germany
... Cameroon had converted one more of the big early chances against Ireland and Germany and had been more lucky with refereeing in the Saudi Arabia match and the goalpost in the Germany match.
Cameroon did not have the same luck as Senegal (or especially at the 2000 Olympics) but the factor that they only had advanced with a good deal of overaverage luck suggests they had not been in form as necessary.

One reason has been their travelling odysee to Japan, a trip that was initially halted by a row over promised but not made payments and then made further difficult by flight problems.
Long journeys within Japan further tired the players and deprived them of the most important physical factor.
In the Ireland match they did not get into any challenges in the second half and so nearly lost a match that they had not decided before.
Only two goals in three games does not speak very good of their attack and against Saudi Arabia Cameroon (as expected) had the most problems of the three superior teams scoring because of the African playing style was more familiar and easier to defend against for the Saudi Arabians.
Against Germany they could not answer the question how to play against a now tactically completely changed German team after being reduced to 10. It was the tactical flexibility and smartness that brought the Germans to the final.
Cameroon still were seeking the key to the door in a typical 11 against 10 scenario, when Germany launched the knock out punch through striker Miroslav Klose and substitute Marco Bode who smartly had spotted the free space in a sprint from midfield into attack and won one on one against Alioum like Olembe had lost the same situation against the german keeper Kahn in the first half.
Cameroon might have been able to go the same way like Germany to the final, but in the end two good halfs against Ireland and Germany were not enough.
They are not alone, Argentina and France went home after the first round, too, although those two did not really do bad.
A pity, if one takes a look at the German way to the final: Cameroon may have been closer to a big upset than it seems now.
Sometimes it just happens this way...

South Africa

South Africa - Paraguay 2:2, South Africa - Slovenia 1:0, South Africa - Spain 2:3
South Africa surprised with a fresh attacking game after new coach Jomo Sono and reduced expectations at home had freed the team from too much tactical pressure.
They even almost had qualified for the second round thanks to Slovenian help but eventually Paraguay were luck to escape and beat the South Africans by one goal.
Of course things have to be relativated a bit: South Africa were lucky to snatch a draw in the last minute by a penalty against Paraguay and played only a second string Spanish squad in the last group match.
Of course it has to be said, that with the exception of Spain this might have been the weakest group of the tournament.
But Slovenia still were very annoying opponents to play against (Spain can witness that) and South Africa did well in both other matches anyway, suffering a bit from inconsistent goalkeeping, too.
Something to see the world more optimistic, like coach Sono probably will appreciate.


Senegal - France 1:0, Senegal - Danmark 1:1, Senegal - Uruguay 3:3, Senegal - Sweden 2:1 a.e.t., Senegal - Turkey 0:1 a.e.t.
Senegal are the special case among the African starters. They had the luck, the success, they played above their individual level (the famous 'more than the sum of the individual talents') and they reached at least the quarter final although pitched against the toughest opponency of all.
Luck when Trezeguet hit the goalpost in the first half against France, luck when the heat helped out against Danmark. Luck with refereeing against Uruguay and that they survived the match they should have lost after throwing it away at halftime. Luck that Sweden hit the Golden Goalpost before Camera hit the Golden Goal.
Luck, but no accident. Senegal looked the sharpest, the most determined, the most inspired, and the most believing of all African starters, they displayed a kind of football that has hardly been seen by Africans at the World Cup before.
Until the tired quarter final they were really haunting the price, they were attacking it, not luring for an outsiders chance.
A greater tactical flexibility characterised their performance too: From the Italian counter style catenaccio against France to the attacking fireworks of the second half against Danmark, they were able to show different faces and different rhythms to their opponents.
The big question is: can this exceptional composition of group of players and a coach all from the same league (and not the Senegalese one of course) compared at all to the other African teams ?
When 1998 France became World champions, The Shot pitched up the question whether or not Peles prediction of African World Champions had not been fulfilled to some little extend by the integration of African players in the French team.
Whether on not the borders had not blurred by having European players of African origin (with a European coach) once playing under this flag, once under that.
It seems it cannot be said that the Senegalese success is a logical product of a decade of administrative work, it seems rather a coincidence of circumstances that has produced this exceptional group.
But obne has to be careful here, first signs of the quality of the team already could be seen before coach Bruno Metsu arrived.
More strange questions have to be asked when trying to dectect the surprise success receipe of this team, what other African Nations will surely be keen on doing.
For example: Why is it those Senegalese players who all play in France and get so well educated there (and are so desired by the clubs)? Why not the Ivorians, the likes from Guinea, Cameroon, or a bigger number of those huge talents from Mali and Burkina Faso (all from the talented francophone West African football reservoir)? A few of them had been in one of the earlier first African football schools, but can this explain all? 
At home in Senegal domestic football is reported not to be in a good condition, neither clubs nor youth teams produce results. The reaction to results does not seem more patient than everywhere else an there is not much what tells apart Senegalese from their neighbours apart from a little more stabile government which provides huge symbolic support for the national team (at least now when they are successful). Not much what distinguishes the Senegalese background from the one of other West African nations.
Somehow Senegal seem to have found a path around the old, more simple logics of success. 
Only a fluke? A misleading mirage for the others? An accident, a special group that is pitched together by coincidence every 100 years? Or something more?


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 first and performance declined then 1978-2002
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%
2002 5/32 = 15.6 % 2.14 teams 1 team 47%
*1982 has been played by a different mode

B2. First round winning perecentage development for African teams since 1970
All first round matches matches counted, including the ones against seeded teams, no second and third round matches counted
year African starters best team reached... winning percentage all teams 
1970 1/16 = 6.25% last 16* 0.167
1974 1/16 = 6.25% last 16* 0.000
1978 1/16 = 6.25% last 16* 0.500
1982 2/24 = 8.33% last 24* 0.583
1986 2/24 = 8.33% last 16 0.416
1990 2/24 = 8.33% last 8 0.500
1994 3/24 = 12.5% last 16 0.278
1998 5/32 = 15.6% last 16 0.400
2002 5/32 = 15.6% last 8 0.400
*meant: no team advanced at this tournament


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