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FIFA World Cup: Russia 2018

2018 World Cup Predictions: Our Writers on the Chances of African Teams in Russia

The World Cup is a global thing and Africa plays a huge part in it. Our experts have their say on how far will African teams progress.

The World Cup is a global thing and Africa plays a huge part in it. Our experts have their say on how far will African teams progress.

Viktor Akatwijuka: In every World Cup, a team performs well above expectations.


In the coming edition, all African teams have the potential to become dark horses, but Nigeria is most likely to be the side that surprises the World. Nigeria have made a largely seamless transition under Gernot Rohr from the side that failed to qualify for the AFCON finals to one that went unbeaten in the World Cup qualifiers. Ranked 48th in the FIFA rankings, they will take on a star-studded Croatia in the opening fixture before facing a modest Iceland side and familiar foes in Argentina in their final game. Winning football matches does not require teams to show off their fire power in repertoire but instead requires a team to hide their weaknesses one way or another. They dazzled in the qualifiers going unbeaten but the preparatory friendlies exposed the team’s weaknesses. Nigeria has a vast pool of talent in the midfield and attack but lacks the same calibre of players in defence. Nigeria’s defenders are well known to lose composure when under pressure which means finding a way to cover the back-line’s shortcomings might be a deciding factor on how far they go in Russia. They also have a goalkeeping concern following Vincent Enyeama’s departure from the international scene and Carl Ikeme’s diagnosis with Leukemia. They might have to depend on 19-year-old Francis Uzoho, a risk considering the pressure that comes with such a competition. The Super Eagles however have a proven leader in Mikel Obi and their attacking riches can’t be doubted. They have found a way to impose their strength and can control the midfield with ease. They have a perfect blend of a young team that bears an imprint of the manager. Gernot Rohr has created a resilient counter attacking, disciplined side that is capable of surprising many. They have a chance to qualify but much depends on the first game against Croatia.

Verdict: Nigeria to Qualify for World Cup Semi’s

Festus Chuma on Tunisia: Tunisia will kick off their campaign next Monday against England and could spring a surprise in that match. They are a technically good side that will definitely go past the group stage for their first time in history.


What they need most is to steal a point from that Group G opener because it will give them confidence to face Belgium and at least grab maximum points in the last match against Panama.

The Carthage Eagles’ coach Nabil Maâloul will probably choose a 5-3-2 formation against England and Belgium and use a 4‑2‑3-1 against Panama. Remember they will be without top scorer Youssef Maskani who suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in April but the team have sharp forwards led by 22-year old, Ellyes Shkri, who has had an excellent season with Montpellier  and is expected to be their key man in the tournament.

But don’t expect too much from the North Africans, they will not make it to the quarter-final.

Final verdict: Tunisia for quarter-finals

Sulayman Bah On Senegal and Morocco: It is not a statement coach Aliou Cisse would like his star-studded outfit to be termed with but Senegal has all it takes to be the first African team to reach the semis of a coveted event like the World Cup.


They, like Nigeria or Ivory Coast, do not have issues with producing good players. Gone are the days when majority squad players are unknowns. In fact, from the days of the late Jules Bocande trickling down to El Hadji Oussainou Diouf, Henry Camara, Diomansy Kamara and Mamadou Niang, the West African nation has always had star profiles. The most successful of these generations is the era of the Dioufs -2002 when they not only reached the Nations Cup finals –losing to Cameroon on spot-kicks –but sealed a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup before Turkey applied the brakes to that terrific run.

Ghana is the only side to equal that feat but like the heartbreak the lions endured to Turkey, a certain Luis Suarez also ended the Black Stars’ World Cup fairytale.

Sadio Mane and co have a herculean task to live to the billing. An achievement other than the semis in this World Cup edition will be a disappointment for Senegal by large the rest of Africa. They have a man in Aliou Cisse to guide them through. Critics will point to their pre-World Cup exhibition games as yardstick to determine longevity of their stay in Moscow. Yes, they’ve won only one of their last five test games they’ve played since March. However, the last encounter against South Korea is sign of better things to come and it reels in, on time in preparation for their first game against Poland. The calibre of Mbaye Niang, Keita Balde, Sadio Mane and Diafran Sakho haven’t ticked yet but when they finally do –pray it happens on June 19th –then the White and Reds have got trouble to do with.

Morocco has talent but qualifying beyond the group stage should be considered a massive undertaking.

Final verdict: Senegal –for WC semis


Mubanga Mubanga: Egypt qualified to the biggest sporting event on the planet after a 28-year absence led by their little magician Mohammed Salah. They find themselves in group A alongside hosts Russia, two-time champions, Uruguay and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

egyptTheir biggest issue is being overly reliant on Salah who looks doubtful Friday’s opener against Uruguay. A strong start to any tournament is crucial to how far a team can go and it doesn’t seem like the same Egypt without the little magician who is nursing a shoulder injury he suffered playing for his club Liverpool during the final of the UEFA Champions League against Real Madrid.

Salah’s quick recuperation would be a massive beef up for Egypt’s technical bench. But with recent collage of photos of him shown swinging his arm in a test of how prepared he is, carries with it some lukewarm news. One thing they will need more than a fit-Sallah to get past Luis Suarez-led Uruguay. Saudi Arabia would like to pose a threat to Pharaohs’ chances and host nation will have the home crowd rallying behind them.

Final Verdict: Group stage exit.  Will finish third in group A.

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