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The continent has its World Cup, but can an African nation actually win it?

The World Cup had to wait for 82 years before it could come to an African nation. Now the question remains: how long will it take for an African nation to lift the trophy?

Asamoah Gyan

Ghana's Asamoah Gyan scored the goal that gave Africa its first win in the tournament

Could the fact that the greatest soccer tournament on earth is taking place on the African continent be the final incentive needed for one of its teams to step out of the shadow of the Europeans and South Americans?

Brazil legend Pele famously made a prediction that an African nation would lift the World Cup by the end of the 20th century. He may have been proved wrong but it wasn't through want of trying by the Afrcians. African teams have been steadily improving and their biggest stars are no longer just local legends but among the biggest names in world football. Is it therefore time for a Didier Drogba (if fit) or Samuel Eto'o to raise the trophy aloft now that the continent has come just as far?

South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast all carry the hopes of their individual nations and the continent as a whole coming into the 2010 World Cup, but in reality, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and perhaps the host nation stand the best chance of reaching the latter stages.

The Ivory Coast, now under the guidance of former England and Mexico coach Sven Goran Eriksson, have been unfairly called a one-man team. While Drogba is hugely influential, as striker and captain, it is an insult to the likes of Emmanuel Eboue, Aruna Dindane, Salmon Kalou and the brothers Kolo and Yaya Touré to suggest that the Elephants will struggle if Drogba fails to recover from a broken arm.

Ivory Coast need to be at their best

Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast in action

Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba is hugely inspirational but the Elelphants are far from a one-man team

The Elephants find themselves in a group with Brazil, Portugal and North Korea. Victory over North Korea should be expected but getting past Brazil and Portugal will be much harder. It is a daunting task.

But why shouldn't the Ivory Coast escape the Group of Death at the expense of Kaka or Cristiano Ronaldo? While Brazil and Portugal have hugely talented squads, the Elephants also boast players from the English and Spanish champions as well as stars from other top teams from around Europe.

If they can get through as the second qualifying team in Group G they could face European champions Spain, the likely winners of Group H. That would be an even more daunting task and one which may be too much for the Elephants to contend with. Qualifying from Group G would be an achievement in itself but the Ivory Coast may find the going too tough in the knock-out round.

Black Stars hoping to qualify with Germany

Ghana team poses for a team photo prior to the World Cup group D soccer match between Serbia and Ghana at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010. Back row from left: Prince Tagoe, Asamoah Gyan, Isaac Vorsah, Hans Adu Sarpei, goalkeeper Richard Kingson, and John Mensah. Front row from left: Kevin-Prince Boateng, Kwadwo Asamoah, John Pantsil, Dede Ayew, and Anthony Annan.

Ghana's Black Stars have high hopes of progressing but won't be drawn on their title credentials

Ghana is regularly spoken about as a future World Cup winning nation but questions still remain about whether that future is here and now. The Ghanaians themselves are keeping out of the debate over whether they can lift the trophy but are still confident of making the latter stages.

The Black Stars made it to the last 16 in Germany in 2006 and this year have a much stronger squad, despite the loss of influential skipper Michael Essien and fitness concerns over Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari.

Hopes are high of at least a semi-final placing in 2010 but first they will have to qualify from Group D, which also features Serbia, Germany and Australia. With the Germans expected to go through as group winners, Ghana cannot afford to slip up if they want to reach the knock-out stages.

A potential last 16 clash with England could be the reward. It's anyone's guess as to which way that one would go.

Indomitable Lions come roaring back

Cameroon's Eto'o Fils Samuel, right, scores against Morocco's goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri during their World Cup qualifying soccer match in Fez, Morocco, Saturday Nov. 14, 2009. Cameroon won the match 2-0.

Cameroon's iconic captain Samuel Eto'o is back at the World Cup with the Indomitable Lions

Eto'o and Cameroon are back at the World Cup after missing out on the 2006 tournament and have a squad shot through with exciting young players. French coach Paul Le Guen has built a Lions Indomptables team with impressive midfielders Jean Makoun and Alex Song at its heart and Inter Milan forward Eto'o leading its attack.

Where the lions are not so indomitable, however, are in defense. With attack-minded Holland likely to top Group E, Cameroon will hope their shaky defense – which conceded seven goals in its last two pre-tournament friendlies – will hold against Denmark and Japan, earning the Lions a possible knock-out clash with world champions Italy.

A young team of heart and sporadic flair may fancy its chances against an ageing Italy side but may come unstuck against more spritely sides if they get any further.

The hosts obviously have more than just continental advantage; their home advantage is something that cannot be discounted at any tournament. With a crowd full of ecstatic fans and with the vuvuzelas at full volume, South Africa has the power of a nation mesmerized by the World Cup behind them. So enthralled are the South Africans in their team, that the belief and wonder in the stands cannot fail to make it onto the pitch.

South Africa hoping to benefit from home advantage

South Africa soccer fans, one holding the team scarf, cheer before the World Cup group A soccer match between South Africa and Mexico at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday, June 11, 2010.

South Africa's colourful, noisy supporters will play an important part in the team's progress

Bafana Bafana entered the tournament on the back of a 12-match unbeaten run and extended that in its first World Cup game, the 1-1 draw with Mexico. It's currently all square in Group A with France and Uruguay also drawing in a dour 0-0 stalemate.

France look short of ideas and continuity and while Uruguay looked dangerous, they couldn't break down an uninspiring French team. After surprising the offensively minded Mexicans, South Africa look good to get at least a point from their game against France and could also get the better of the Uruguayans.

For the sake of the tournament, it would be great to see Bafana Bafana progress to the knock-out stages. No-one likes it when the host nation crashes out early. Should they get through as either winners or second-placed qualifiers in Group A, the hosts could meet either South Korea or Argentina.

They will be hoping they get the Koreans. Those wanting the party to continue will hope so too, although their chances of going any further will depend on the luck of the draw and the power of the crowd.

This World Cup has already proved that Africa has come a long way by staging the event. Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon and South Africa are the most likely teams to show how far progress on the pitch has come. However, despite the romance that may be generated by the vision of an African nation lifting the trophy, the wait is likely to continue past the 2010 tournament.

Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Kyle James

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