Africa Unite

For the first time, the World Cup finals will be held in Africa and the continent will have six representatives at this year’s tournament. South Africa are hosts and are also the lowest-ranked team taking part in this year’s competition. They didn’t enter the first seven tournaments and were banned from competing until 1994. They qualified for the 1998 and 2002 finals, but only won one of their six games on those occasions. Previously, all host nations have made it past the first round at least, but South Africa have their work cut out for them in what is a very tough group to call. However, it’s unlikely that they’ll get too many points off France, Mexico or Uruguay and may take some consolation in the fact that they won’t have too far to travel to get home

Nigeria made it to the last 16 in each of their first two attempts in 1994 and 1998. They failed to make it out of their group at their third attempt, however, and didn’t even qualify in 2006. They are one of the most consistent teams in the African Cup of Nations and have finished in the top three thirteen times out of the last eighteen tournaments since 1976, the first time they qualified. They may not get that far in South Africa, but they have a great chance of getting out of a group that contains Greece and South Korea as well as the tougher opposition provided by Argentina

The Ivory Coast are at their second consecutive finals, having made their debut four years ago. They have some of the best players in the world in their squad but, like last time, have been given a tough draw. In 2006, they lost their opening matches against Holland and Argentina by a solitary goal before grabbing a consolation win against Serbia & Montenegro in their final match. This time they have been put in a group with two of the three top-ranked teams in the world. Their game against Brazil should be worth watching and I think they can take Portugal. North Korea make up the numbers in the group

Ghana also made their debut at the finals four years ago and were the only African team to progress past the first round. They lost to Italy in their opening game, but beat the USA and the Czech Republic to earn a shot against Brazil in the next round. Brazil won handily, but Ghana went on to have two top four finishes at the 2008 and 2010 African Cup of Nations. They may progress to the next stage this year as they are in a group that contains Germany, Serbia and Australia

Algeria are making their third appearance at a World Cup finals. They made their debut in 1982 when they caused a shock by beating eventual finalists West Germany in their opening game. They then lost to Austria, but defeated Chile in their third game and needed the result in the group’s final match to go their way. They required Austria to avoid defeat against West Germany or for the Germans to beat their neighbours by three goals or more. In one of the most cynical games in World Cup history, West Germany took an early lead, both teams shut up shop and the game turned into a practice match. They qualified again four years later, but found themselves in a tough group with Brazil and Spain and managed just one point in their match against Northern Ireland. They’re in a tough group again this time and may not get much change from England, the USA and Slovenia

Cameroon also qualified for the first time in 1982 and they also got knocked out on goal difference. They were always going to be outsiders in a group that included Italy, Poland and Peru. Amazingly, the first four games in the group produced four draws and the fifth game was heading that way until Poland trounced Peru 5-1. That turned out to be the only game in the group that wasn’t drawn as Cameroon shared the points with Italy in the final game. Italy finished level with Cameroon on the same number of points and goal difference, but Italy proceeded by virtue of having scored a goal more. Poland and Italy met again at the semi-final stage with Italy emerging as worthy winners. Cameroon made it as far as the quarter-finals in 1990 and were unlucky to go out to England. They made it the the following three tournaments and are back this time after missing out in 2006. They’ve got a good squad and have a good chance of progressing in a group that also includes Japan, Denmark and Holland

I first came across African music when I heard Paul Simon’s Graceland album. I really liked its rhythms, melodic guitars and approach to vocals. Because of Simon’s album, I discovered the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Miriam Makeba, both from South Africa, but today I’ve chosen a song from 1971 by John Kongos. He was born in Johannesburg, but moved to England in the sixties where he had two top ten hits in 1971, Tokoleshe Man and He’s Gonna Step On You Again. The latter is credited with being the first song to use a sample and both songs were popularised two decades later by the Happy Mondays from Manchester. Nigeria also has a strong lineage of musicians with Fela Kuti being the most renowned. Tony Allen was the drummer in Kuti’s Africa 70 band throughout the 1970s. He kept himself busy over the next few decades and was a co-founder of the group The Good, The Bad & The Queen in 2006. Secret Agent is the title track of an album he released last year

Reggae music is popular in the Ivory Coast and Alpha Blondy is one of its most successful and popular exponents. Cocody Rock opens his 1984 album of the same title. Many of the most important musicians from Ghana appear to be percussionists and I’ve chosen a track that should drum up some support for the national team. The piece features postal workers at the University of Ghana Post Office and is entitled Cancelling Stamps at the University of Ghana Post Office. I got it as part of this Stomp Clap Mix at the I Am Fuel, You Are Friends blog. Rachid Taha was born in Algeria and grew up in France. His version of Rock the Casbah by The Clash is well known and was used in the film about Joe Strummer, The Future is Unwritten. Manu Dibango is a saxophonist from Cameroon who is now in his 70s. His 1972 single, Soul Makossa, is considered to be an influence on disco music. Bessoka is taken from an album of b-sides

He’s Gonna Step On You Again – John Kongos (South Africa)

Secret Agent – Tony Allen (Nigeria)

Cocody Rock – Alpha Blondy (Ivory Coast)

Cancelling Stamps At The Univ. of Ghana Post Office

Rock El Casbah (The Clash cover) – Rachid Taha (Algeria)

Bessoka [Version Courte] – Manu Dibango (Cameroon)

Previously on World Cup 2010:

Top of the World

Give Him a Ball (& a Yard of Grass)

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8 thoughts on “Africa Unite

  1. Pingback: Football and Music » Be A Football & Music Spotter

    • It’s cool, isn’t it? I can’t imagine that going on at an An Post sorting office

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  5. Great selection, you have the knowledge.

    I’m aiming to post something…at least I’ve have a crack… might end in spectacular failure but I’ll give it a try… about each country during the World Cup and I’ll point people over here.

    As for South Africa. I have a feeling in my bones that they might pull something off.
    After all it is football…
    Host teams always play better at home and in their run up to these finals although they’ve never had a competitive match, they have won the 10 friendlies they’ve played so far.
    Obviously it would be better for the country and for the World Cup if they can at least make it out of the group stages. I’m crossing my fingers for them.

    • Great to hear from you, Webbie, and I look forward to you upcoming posts and pointings

      Every one of the previous eighteen hosts have made it out of their groups and quite a few have punched above their weight. I think that Group A is this tournament’s Group of Death and I reckon that the South Africans have as good a chance as anyone of progressing. In fact, I think that France could be in for a bit of a shock

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