The Hopes Of a Continent, Not a Nation: 2010 World Cup Preview

Thomas HoweCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2010

STUTTGART, GERMANY - JUNE 16:  Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast runs with the ball during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Group C match between Netherlands and Ivory Coast at the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadium on June 16, 2006 in Stuttgart, Germany.  (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)
Ben Radford/Getty Images

Countries around the world will be gearing up for World Cup glory this summer. South Africa will host 32 countries, all of whom will have the hopes of a nation wanting their team to lift the prestigious trophy.

All but five of the 18 previous World Cups have been won by teams from the host’s continent. Three of those victories came in the Americas, from Brazil winning in Mexico in 1970 and the USA in 1994, and Argentina also won in Mexico in 1986.

Brazil has been the only country to win the tournament outside the Americas and not being in the same continent as the host nation. Their victories date back to Sweden 1958, when 17-year-old superstar Pele was introduced to the world, and more recently the success in Korea/Japan in 2002.

With statistics like these, African fans around the world must be getting excited about their team's chances this summer. Not to mention Pele, who predicted an African team would win the World Cup by 2000.

Many people will forgive him for being 10 years late if an African team wins it this year.

The hopes of football fans from South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Ivory Coast will undoubtedly be passionate. The will for their teams to be successful  is paramount. However, spare a thought for the other 41 African nations watching their neighbours competing in South Africa—each willing on their African counterparts to show the world what African football is all about.

It isn’t just the fans you should sympathise with. Have a thought for the players representing not just their country, but also an entire continent. The pressure on this year’s group of African teams to succeed is tremendous.

We all know about global sensations Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o and Kolo Toure. They have been the high-profile players promoting African football for the past 10 years. Yet, with quality players playing in the top leagues around Europe, Ivory Coast and Cameroon have yet to reach beyond the quarterfinals.

Maybe this is the year that an African team wins the FIFA World Cup.

During Drogba’s early days playing international football, he never had a hitman of his calibre on his team. For youngsters like Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and Benjamin Angoua, who are entering their first World Cups, they now have what Drogba and Toure never had—veteran leadership and quality.

African squads are the strongest they’ve ever been. Overall, 27 African players, who just played for their countries in the recent African Cup of Nations, are contracted to premier league teams:

Algeria—Kamel Ghilas (Hull), Nadir Belhadj and Hassan Yebda (Portsmouth)

Cameroon—Alexandre Song (Arsenal), Andre Bikey (Burnley), Sebastien Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Spurs)

Ivory Coast—Emmanuel Eboué (Arsenal), Salomon Kalou, Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Kolo Touré (Man City) and Aruna Dindane (Portsmouth)

Nigeria—Danny Shittu (Bolton), Mikel John Obi (Chelsea), Joseph Yobo, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Victor Anichebe (Everton), Dickson Etuhu (Fulham), Seyi Olofinjana (Hull) and Nwankwo Kanu (Portsmouth)

South Africa—Benni McCartney (Blackburn) and Steven Pineear (Everton)

Ghana—Michael Essien (Chelsea), John Paintsil (Fulham), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Portsmouth), John Mensah (Sunderland) and Richard Kingson (Wigan)

 With home field advantage, more experience and battle-tested players, combined with talented youth, the 2010 World Cup may be very memorable for Africa.