With the FIFA World Cup scheduled to begin June 11, every nation participating will be fighting to claim the title as the best football (soccer) team in the world. Some countries are obvious favorites to win it all, such as Brazil, Spain and even England.

But what isn’t so obvious to most fans planning to tune in is the number of African countries talented enough to pull off surprise victories this World Cup.

Heading into 2010, most soccer experts ranked Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) as the best football team in all of Africa and some even considered them a top five favorite to earn the championship. But Ivory Coast’s luck turned for the worst last week as team captain Didier Drogba broke his elbow in a warm-up match against Japan. According to Goal.com, fellow team star Salomon Kalou will be counted on to make up for Drogba’s absence, but it will be very tough for Ivory Coast to win without its best player, considering they’re grouped with soccer juggernauts Brazil and Portugal.

With Ivory Coast down a player, Cameroon is now ranked as the top African team, according to FIFA.

Cameroon was once considered among the best teams in the world, having qualified for the FIFA World Cup six times (1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010) more than any other African nation. But since losing to England in quarterfinals in ’90, Cameroon hasn’t made much of an impact World Cup wise.

They hope to change that with their new generation of stars, including Roger Millas, Francois Omam-Biyiks and Samuel Eto’o, who each put on stellar performances in the qualifying games. But Cameroon is grouped with strong competitors Japan, Netherlands and Denmark, so it won’t be easy for them to advance.

Another team to look out for is Nigeria, who bet makers are suggesting could possibly advance out of the opening round if they get past Argentina, the best team of its group.

According to sbrforum.com, Nigeria shouldn’t have problems with the other teams in Group B (Greece and South Korea) and with somewhat of a home field advantage, may be able to pull off an upset against top ranked Argentina.

Fans should also keep an eye on Ghana, who perhaps has more confidence than any other team in the continent.

“I’m certain that we can go all the way in South Africa,” Ghana defender Samuel Inkoom told score.com after his team fell to Egypt in the African Nations Cup finals earlier this year. “We have the necessary quality and have a great chance of winning the World Cup. It’s not going to be easy by any stretch, but we’re in it to win it.

“All the African teams are ready for this tournament, Inkoom continued. “We want to prove to the rest of the world that we can play good football too. I want to take this opportunity to thank FIFA for giving Africa the tournament.”

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor