With the first round of fixtures at the World Cup completely wrapped up, the Terenga Lions of Senegal are the only African side to record a win out of the five representatives.
In contrast to the Pharaohs of Egypt who have completed two rounds of games in Group A and recorded no win, the Senegalese seem to be the only hope of African football pending if results turn around for the other African sides in the next round of games.
The fitness of Mohammed Salah going into the tournament was always the question considering the Egyptian squad was bank average. In the game against Uruguay, they gave a good account of themselves. However, they paid the price late in the game when Gimenez powered in the header to seal three points for the South Americans. A fit Salah would have changed the complexion of the game especially with the chances that went begging.
In the second game vs. Russia, a couple of defensive errors and team selection cost them the game. The host ran out 3-1 winners with Salah grabbing the consolation goal from the spot. A win for Uruguay against Saudi will all but confirm their exit from the competition. However, they will aim for their first World Cup win against Saudi-Arabia in the last group game.
Morocco’s failure to record a win in their first group match against Iran is a massive blow to their chances of qualifying from the group. It’s going to be a steep learning curve for Herve Renard’s men looking at the two Iberian neighbors placed in the group. They have a slim chance of making it to the round of 16. It would take a miracle to register a win against Spain and Portugal which is what they need to qualify.
A win for the Atlas Lions in any of those remaining games will be a welcome development and a step in the right direction.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria produced a lackluster display vs. Croatia in the first group game. They showed the Croats too much respect in the first half coupled with the poor defensive display when it comes to set-pieces which led to the two goals they conceded. As it stands, it’s difficult to predict the outcome of this group, particularly with debutants Iceland putting up an exceptional performance against Argentina.
The Nigerians still have their destiny firmly in their grasp even though it will be a tricky proposition to outclass Jorge Sampaoli’s side considering the head to head record in the World Cup; they are yet to register a point in the last four meetings. A win for the West Africans vs. Iceland will resurrect their chances of qualifying.
You can trace back to 1978, the first time an African team won a game in the World Cup. Unfortunately the last time the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia recorded a win in the tournament. Pre-tournament favorites England and Belgium remain on course to progress from this group. A draw against the Three Lions would have kept their slim hopes alive. However, a victory vs. Belgium can restore those hopes before confronting Panama in the last group tie.
The Tunisians need to record six points in the last group ties to stand a chance of moving to the knockout stages.
Senegal evoked the memories of Korea/Japan 2002 as they coasted to a 2-1 victory over Poland. The Terenga Lions produced a convincing display from start to finish to outfox the Polish guys. Striker Robert Lewandowski was stifled throughout the game by the Senegalese defenders thereby denying the Poles any opportunity in front of goal.
The Senegalese stand a better chance to progress beyond the group stages compared to the African teams. They have the quality to replicate the feat they achieved in 2002.