Algeria has shown African football how it should be done

June 30, 2014 4:00 pm

It came as quite a surprise when Algeria qualified for the last 16 with a draw against Fabio Capello’s Russia for those who don’t really know much about them. Many, myself included, were expecting Ivory Coast and Ghana to be the star performers in Brazil but Les Fennecs, led by Valid Halilhodzic, have defied the odds to book a match against tournament favourites Germany, with whom they have a score to settle.

“We have not forgotten,” Halilhodzic said to the BBC. “Everybody has been talking about Algeria and Germany from 1982.” Here, he is referring to the controversial 1-0 result between West Germany and Austria in Spain, which was the exact result require to see both teams advance to the last 16 at the expense of Algeria, who has played their final group game earlier. Many believe the match was fixed though to this day nothing has been proven and retribution has not been attained. The lasting impact of the “Disgrace in Gijon” is that final group matches now take place at the same time to avoid controversies like this. They’ve earned the right to seek justice after 32 years.

20131116__26557d88-e0f1-4996-aa8a-f3e9e8cd4eae~l~soriginal~phThe same cannot be said about any of the other four African nations at the tournament. On Friday, the Nigerian players disgraced themselves by refusing to train ahead of their match against France as they wanted their last 16 bonus paid to them imminently. This is the third in a line of money-related incidents for African sides; Ghana had planned a boycott of their match against Portugal unless their tournament wage was paid ahead of schedule (The Ghanaian Football Association had to request an advance on the $8m prize money they were guaranteed to receive for World Cup participation to pay it), and L’Equipe reported that Cameroon refused to turn up unless their £65,000 World Cup bonuses were significantly raised, which they eventually were by around £7,200, with the place to Brazil setting off 12 hours late as a result.

_75325148_494993315So, what have these demanding players achieved exactly? Nigeria has made it through to the last 16 with a total of four points; giving Argentina run for their money at points during their game. The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winners have really let themselves down by demanding this money now, which has hampered preparations for a big game against France. Ghana played stylish, attractive, football but were hugely wasteful of the chances they created and finished bottom with one point and a whimper against a weak Portugal team. Mere days later, Sulley Muntari divided opinion by handing out cash to underprivileged Brazilians in Maceio before forgetting to check his own privilege when slapping GFA committee member Moses Armah in the face, while Kevin Prince-Boateng verbally assaulted head coach Kwesi Appiah. Both were expelled fro the squad and have had their World Cup accreditation rescinded.

By far the worst example is Cameroon. The wage revolt, allegedly led by Samuel Eto’o, hurt their preparation. When they did play, they were awful; probably the worst team in the competition based on their performances. They played some dodgy looking defensive formation, which often looked like a 6-3-1 at time, and failed to produce anything in the way of a footballing display. I could have rounded up eleven of my mates and turned up in place and we would have put on a better show. To cap it off, Alex Song inexplicably raked an elbow down someone’s spine. Who does that?!

The players cannot make amends for their performances but giving all of their prize money and then some back to the countries they come from would go some way to achieving it. Do they not know how impoverished their home nations are? Are they really that poorly educated on the subject? As of 2010 85% of the Nigerian population live on less than $2 a day and they’re at the World Cup complaining about bonuses? They’re all ridiculously rich anyway; talk about a lack of respect and thought for the country you’re playing 90 minutes for.

imagesThe Ivory Coast haven’t had monetary issues but they will consider their World Cup a failure as well. We mustn’t forget the tragic loss of Ibrahim Toure to cancer, and his brothers Kolo and Yaya, who my condolences go to, will not have been 100% going into the game against Greece. But they still have yet to reach the last 16 and they have their squad to compensate for situations such as this. Previously, they’ve been in groups they weren’t expected to finish any higher than third in but this year they had a real opportunity and have completely let it slip. Now they are running out of places to hide. Serge Aurier’s performances have been a sole highlight for them.

Algeria marched into their game against Germany knowing that whatever happens they’ve been the sole nation that has done the continent of Africa proud, and that’s something I would have never begun to think about predicting. The organisation and discipline shown by them, as well as a surprisingly entertaining brand of football, has been a welcome surprise and a joy to watch. Best of all, the players are all humble and thankful that they even get to be at the World Cup: it’s a great privilege, they know that and have shown that way more than any other African nation; and all this after they were nearly denied access to the World Cup after a dispute with Burkina Faso over potentially fielding an ineligible player proved unfounded. Africa has taught us a lot this World Cup, and lesson learned; expect anything and everything, positive, negative, or downright shocking.

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