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Fifa World Cup | Africa seeks to force Fifa’s hand with its feet

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-06-2014 Mark Gleeson

Salvador: Africa’s hopes of increased future World Cup representation rest heavily on achievement in Brazil this year where five countries seek to break new ground and force Fifa’s (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) hand. The Fifa World Cup 2014 begins Thursday with the opening match between Brazil and Croatia.

To do so, however, African teams will have to do vastly better than the disappointing return of four years ago, where they failed to take advantage of a World Cup on home soil and largely disappointed.

This year, the draw has been favourable for the African sides except for the continent’s form team Ghana, who face Germany, Portugal and USA in a tough group.

Algeria, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria are all confident of advancing to the knockout phase while it is never sure what can be expected from mercurial Cameroon, who are the first African side in action when they play Mexico in Natal on Friday.

Agitation for more World Cup places for African countries has been simmering for some time but past performances have largely dampened it. Only three African countries have made it to the quarter-finals of a World Cup, although Ghana came agonisingly close in South Africa four years ago to a semi-final place.

The continent’s five other representatives, including the host nation, failed to get past the group stage.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has promised to fight for more places but only if it can offer a convincing case and to do that would require the five teams in Brazil to achieve beyond expectation.

CAF president Issa Hayatou has spoken previously of his “stress” at arguing for more representation.

“We need to have the results to back our case,” he said. Rarely has he had a strong hand.

Africa, who only got their own World Cup place for the first time in 1970, have 53 member nations while Europe, recently swelled by the addition of Gibraltar, is the biggest of Fifa’s six continental confederations with 54. There are 13 European teams at the World Cup in Brazil.

But while Europe and South America historically dominate the World Cup, Africa has largely fared poorly on the field, something the teams need to improve on to strengthen their continent’s case. Reuters

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