An all Africa exit at FIFA World Cup 2018
For the first time since 1982, there will be no African team in the knockout round of the FIFA World Cup Finals.
All the big names from the continent including Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Senegal have all been eliminated. With matches filled with close calls and near misses the five teams kept soccer fans at the edge of their seats with some commendable performances
The hope of Egypt’s Pharaohs lay in their talisman, Liverpool forward, Mohammed Salah who scored two of the 10 goals that assisted them to qualify.
And his absence from the first game due to a shoulder injury was felt on the pitch as they lost to Uruguay 0-1. They then after lost to hosts Russia 1-3 and later Saudi Arabia beat them 2-1.
Nonetheless the games gave a chance for the Pharaoh’s goalkeepers to shine. Mohamed El Shenaw who made impeccable saves for the team against Uruguay while legend Essam El Hadary, 45, celebrated World Cup history in fine style against Saudi Arabia by not only becoming the tournament’s oldest player but also making a stunning penalty save.
After 20 years, Morocco made their return to the finals. Their first game against Iran had been predicted to go in their favor. But a clumsy own goal gifted Iran with a win.
They played fiercely in their next matches losing 0-1 to Portugal. Their undoing like most African teams was the lack of an accurate goal scorer as they missed huge opportunities.
But they played an undisputedly great game against Spain. They were seconds away from inflicting Spain’s first defeat in 23 games but a goal at stoppage time had the score at 2-2.
Their prodigious game play was even recognized by Spain coach, Fernando Hierro who was quoted as saying, “They are an excellent team who had lost two matches 1-0 while deserving much more.”
The Carthage Eagles lost their opening game 1-2 to England in stoppage time. Their main problem being the inability to score.
The Eagles felt overwhelmed in a group with heavyweights England and Belgium. The team’s coach was the first to admit that it would take another generation of players to beat the formidable European teams.
Despite trailing against Panama, the North Africans fought back and won 2-1 and by doing so they secured their first win in the competition since 1978 the year when they became the first African team to win a World Cup game.
Nigeria’s last-gasp loss to Argentina had fans mourning long after the final whistle blew. With a dazzling line up of international players such as Victor Moses the Chelsea winger and Kelechi Iheanacho from Leicester City, the Super Eagles were definitely the continents favorites to move to advance to the quarterfinals. Unfortunately the 86th minute goal from Marcos Rojos gave Argentina a 2-1 victory and cut short the Eagles World Cup journey.
With their fellow West African team eliminated, the pressure on Senegal was overwhelming as a last hope for the continent.
They were favored to achieve the impossible after they humbled Poland in their first match. They played well against Japan but showed signs of exhaustion towards the last half and Japan took advantage of this and equalized leaving the final score at 2-2.
They demonstrated an immaculate defense and footwork at the beginning of their game with Colombia owning the ball for the most part of the first half. The midfield pairing of Cheikhou Kouyate and Idrissa Gueye were lacking in tenacity and at the 11th minute Colombia managed to score.
Ideally the 1-0 score should not have affected Senegal’s ability to proceed to the next stage as Japan had lost to Poland. But they were subjected for the first time in history to “the fair play ruling.”
Japan proceeded to the next level because they had fewer yellow cards than Senegal.