Africa pushed Senegal to the background and looked up to Nigeria to make it proud at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Turns out, the team in the spotlight was just a group of fashion enthusiasts with the real hope being the push asides.
Honestly, the African teams at the 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament had been poor until that last game in the first round of matches.
So, it was highly forgivable for onlooking fans to not have the believed in their stars in green, Senegal, even when they led by two goals against Poland.
Egypt started Africa’s campaign with their opening game against Uruguay. Despite Mohamed Salah not being fit to start, Africa still looked for a chance to shine in the cold lands of Russia.
A cold feeling it was for the continent in the end, and Salah, who could not make an appearance for his team’s opening fixture had heartbreaking photos from the bench, to sum up the collective feeling.
Then, there was Morocco.
The lackadaisical approach to their game against Iran is an attitude not worthy of their part among Africa’s five representatives.
With Portugal and Spain in the same group, losing to Iran raises questions.
Questions that will only have positive answers if Morocco is drenched in the full anointing of being underdogs who were a part of the biggest upsets in Russia.
Because quite frankly, it will be an absolute miracle to have Morocco beat Spain and Portugal to boost their qualification chances. Especially with that shambolic performance against Iran.
That’s one of those ‘football, bloody hell’ moment that does not have a chance in hell to happen.
The most popular African team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament is Nigeria.
However, it was no effort or fault of theirs getting that recognition.
Nike’s creative team did a really good job of trying to mix the colours green and white, resulting in the most talked about jersey for Russia 2018, Nigeria’s kit.
When the likes of Germany were discussing how Sane’s drop could affect the FIFA World Cup defending champions, Egypt stressing on Mohamed Salah’s fitness level due to his ability, Nigerian minds were occupied by which half shoe fits their designer wears from Nike.
Of course, they had to make an impact at the FIFA World Cup, but football was not the subject of that memo.
The most exciting part of Nigeria’s first game against Croatia was the opening minutes. Not the opening minutes of the game itself.
The opening minutes of the entire fixture.
Adorned in their most talked about apparels, the Super Eagles majestically made their way unto the football field and that was it.
Football itself, for the purpose of which John Obi Mikel and his teammates had made their way unto the pitch, was lacking skills, ability and zeal.
Youthful exuberance that had no purposeful goals was the summary of Nigeria’s opening fixture.
In fact, the only goal Nigeria gave the African continent in that game came from their goalkeeper; how to be forever young in age but old in stature.
Francis Uzoho as a 19-year-old at the FIFA World Cup was the centre of attraction setting Twitter on fire after the commentator mentioned it.
Uzoho’s age wahala was no fault of his and to single him out will be kind of cruel. The entire Nigeria team deserves that accolade … failing to show up when it needed most on the football pitch while excelling as fashion enthusiasts.
Sadio Mane had been brilliant for Liverpool in the ended season, helping his team score goals for fun. Against Poland, he was a leader who channelled his inspiration to his teammates.
It is funny that the focus of Africa hasn’t had him in the centre yet. It has been Nigeria for all the wrong reasons relative to football. And Mohamed Salah, which is rightly so considering the feat he achieved in goal scoring and impact ahead of the FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia.
Senegal was exciting to watch. Like Mexico against Germany, their pace and quick feet troubled Poland.
They worked hard for each tackle and looked a team that was willing to make Africa proud after their mates had underwhelmingly made their mark of a no-show.
And after so many minutes of waiting, Africa had its first goal at the World Cup from open play. A well-deserved goal for Senegal and a second, that came from the men in green’s hard work and pressure.
Following the accounts of what has been (and not), Senegal holds the potent potion of going far among the continents’ representatives.
One game is sometimes an early stage to judge. However, winning your first game at the World Cup gives you the confidence to go far. And the statistics also help because two wins mean qualification.
Senegal looks that team for Africa. A 2-1 win against Poland. Possible qualification against Japan who also seeks to achieve same results after edging Columbia. These games are highly volatile. No doubt.
Notwithstanding, after a first round of games for Africa at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Aliou Cisse’s team gives hope as the continent’s best team so far.