Saturday, June 19, 2010

From Bad to Worse for Africa

Cameroon became the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup, losing 1-2 to Denmark. How on earth they were not able to score more than a single goal in this game will forever remain a mystery. They had 23 shots in total and squandered numerous chances, including several one-on-ones. For sure, Denmark also missed several clear opportunities to add to the scoreline. But the Danish defending was a horrow show, and Cameroon really has only itself to blame for not winning the game.

It reminds me of the conversations I've had with people in Africa about the African teams' lack of finishing, and how perhaps it can be traced back to the way many kids play when they're little. You'll see kids play in small, narrow alleys, putting down two rocks for goal posts. All the play goes through the middle and the kids love to dribble and play little triangles and walk the ball into the goal. No one plays on the wing because no one wants to pick up the ball from the gutter when it goes out. So there are no balls into the middle for strikers to finish, so why bother with strikers at all?

Cameroon, of course, has Samuel Eto'o, one of the finest strikers in the world. He scored the Lions' opener and also hit the post in the first half. But the man can't do everything himself.

There can be no complaining about the entertainment value of this game. In the end, however, a very disappointing result for Africa. The vast majority of the Loftus stadium crowd here in Pretoria was rooting for Cameroon. As I left the stadium (during perhaps the coldest night yet here), one really distraught guy draped in a Cameroon flag cried out, "Why Africa? We play all the good soccer! Why don't we win?"

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