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African challenge flops at World Cup

JOHANNESBURG, June 21 – A record six-prong African challenge at the first World Cup hosted by the continent has produced just one win from 12 matches and no guarantee of any country making the second round.Officials from African Football Confederation president Issa Hayatou down and former stars like Abedi Pele and George Weah expected at least one of the sextet to make the semi-finals.

That seems a distant dream as even powerful contenders Ghana and Ivory Coast face elimination while 1990 quarter-finalists Cameroon suffered the humiliation of being the first country eliminated from the month-long tournament.

Here is the state of play with one group match left for each African team in a competition where the best performances have been last-eight places for Cameroon and Senegal 12 years later.

ALGERIA

Only victory over the United States on Wednesday will offer a chance of second round action for the Anther Yahia-skippered ‘Desert Foxes’, who held England goalless after losing 1-0 to lesser force Slovenia.

The sight of the Three Lions shirt was always going to be a massive motivator and they were rarely troubled by far higher-profile opponents, but the failure to get anything from Slovenia could return to haunt them.

CAMEROON

Clashes over team selection and tactics between French coach Paul le Guen and senior players spelt trouble and so it proved with losses to Japan and Denmark rendering the last game against The Netherlands on Thursday meaningless.

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Le Guen started well with Indomitable Lions, salvaging a sinking qualifying campaign, but a tame quarter-finals exit from 2010 African Cup of Nations proved a taste of things to come.

GHANA

A draw against three-time champions Germany on Wednesday and the Black Stars go through, but that is easier said than done against proud rivals fighting for survival.

Have not set Highveld on fire despite leading standings with both goals coming from Asamoah Gyan-converted penalties against Serbian and Australian teams that had a player sent off.

IVORY COAST

Must defeat North Korea on Friday to have chance of surviving ‘Group of Death’ after holding Portugal in a dour Port Elizabeth duel before falling 3-1 to Brazil with inspirational captain Didier Drogba back in starting line-up.

They often matched Brazil, whose striker Luis Fabiano handled the ball twice while scoring second goal, but at other times were made to look ordinary as the South Americans carved openings with slick passing.

NIGERIA

Although bottom of the table and pointless after losses to Argentina and Greece, Super Eagles can squeeze through on Tuesday by defeating the Asians if Greece suffer an anticipated loss to the group leaders.

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Like Algeria, the Nigerians seem to perform better when facing stronger rivals with a good showing against Argentina followed by Sani Kaita losing his head and getting sent off when leading the Greeks.

SOUTH AFRICA

Goal-shy team must win handsomely on Tuesday against fellow strugglers France to have any hope and even a 10-goal victory will count for nought if leaders Uruguay and Mexico draw.

After a good second-half showing against Mexico, were brutally exposed by Uruguay in a 3-0 Pretoria drubbing with two-goal Diego Forlan granted the freedom of the park and South Africa took 70 minutes to get a shot on target.

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