The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations will be one of the keenly contested continental showpieces irrespective of opinions making rounds that it will not live up to the billing as a result of the absence of nations like Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria. Indeed, one cannot underestimate the might of a nation like Senegal, whose football association technical director Fall Amsatou once confided in me that they like the manner they have been underrated going into the tourney. Virtually not being tagged as favourites, Amsatou claims, gives them enough room to pull the surprise. Truly, the joint-favourites tag carried by Ghana and Ivory Coast is deserving though it puts pressure on the two West African neighbours. For Ghana’s Black Stars, the pressure is doubled some sort because of their performance at the global showpiece before this tournament.
The 2010 World Cup had an unprecedented representation of Africa. South Africa, who qualified as hosts, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria and Ivory Coast, perhaps, mounted Africa’s toughest representation at the 2010 World Cup, which incidentally became the first to be hosted by the continent. Surprisingly, Africa’s representatives except Ghana performed abysmally. Not only did Cameroon fail to pick a point at that world cup, but also hosts South Africa failed to make it from the group stage. Historically, it was the first time a host nation had failed to make it out of its group.
Nonetheless, Ghana fought hard to brandish Africa’s flag, which has virtually come to be represented by RED, YELLOW and GREEN since any flag of an African nation will have at least one of these colours. The Black Stars not only made it out of the group stages but also equaled Africa’s record in the history of the world cup. Indeed, the Black Stars came closer to a semi-final berth than any of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions and Senegal’s Teranga Lions. It will be needless at this stage to mention the circumstances under which Ghana missed the chance to make history for herself in the world cup. But the Black Stars run at the 2010 World Cup coupled with the absence of giants like Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, who are former winners of the Africa Cu of Nations, puts Ghana ahead of any other favourite. Ghana’s expectation to win the tournament is greater than that of any of the other fifteen qualifiers and even if Nigeria, Cameroon and Egypt had qualified, Ghana would have been considered a favourite.
Among the nations that shone at the 2010 World Cup were Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Uruguay, Ghana, Brazil, Japan and Argentina. The above-listed teams were the quarter finalists. Spain had already carved a niche for themselves going into the 2010 World Cup as European Champions. Indeed, not only did they lift the flag of Europe high but also broke a jinx of European nations winning the world cup on their continent. Notwithstanding, they stand favourites still to win the 2012 European Championships. The other two European nations in the above list had also performed well coming into the world cup. Germany were only second to Spain while the Netherlands had to succumb to an extra-time pressure from Russia in the quarter finals after winning all their three matches at the group stage.
Among the South American countries in the list, Brazil were better as compared to Argentina and Uruguay in the history of the world but Uruguay became the best-performing South American side. As if that was a fluke they went to the Copa America in 2011 to justify their performance at the world cup ahead of Brazil and even hosts of the 2011 Copa America Argentina.
The continent of Asia had Australia tagged as favourites since joining from the Oceanian region. However, Japan’s performance at the 2010 World Cup was so well-prosecuted at the 2011 Asian Cup that they pipped the Kangaroos of Australia 1-0 in the finals to win the tournament. It was a moment of justifying Japan’s tag as the best-performing Asian side at the 2010 World Cup.
Though there is no Oceanian representative in the list above, New Zealand, who represented that continent justified themselves as the only team not to have lost a match though they went out at the group stage.
North and Central America’s best-performing sides of Mexico and the United States of America, who went out of the 2010 world Cup at the Round of 16 appeared at the finals of the Gold Cup.
It is in this light that the best-performing African side at the 2010 World Cup – Ghana – has little option in not annexing the trophy. Expectation has been intensified as a result of performance in the past three Africa Cup of Nations. Indeed, Ghana’s performance pitched it above Ivory Coast (2nd, 17 points) and Angola (3rd, 11 points).
Performance at a world cup contributes little to performance in a continental tournament but events surrounding the Black Stars participation in the 2012 Africa Cup of nation lives them with little room of failure to win the trophy.