from ADEWALE OKAFOR in Moscow, Russia
MOSCOW – AFRICAN teams have degenerated into punching bags at the ongoing Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) World Cup in Russia.
So far, all the three African teams – Egypt, Nigeria and Morocco-have lost their opening matches and face daunting tasks to make it out of their respective groups.
North Africans Egypt and Morocco lost concentration at crucial stages of their matches and were made to pay by Uruguay and Iran respectively. The matches finished 1-0.
Nigeria suffered worse humiliation when an otherwise uninspiring Croatia was still good enough to win 2-0.
The woeful performances by the trio have not only cast a dark cloud over prospects by African teams to progress to the next stage but put pressure on Senegal and Tunisia to redeem the continent’s lost pride.
Tunisia will be up against England at the Volgograd Stadium in the southwestern industrial city of Volgograd on Monday.
Kickoff is 20h00, some 20 years after The Three Lions mauled the Carthage Eagles 2-0 in a Group match at France ’98.
Tunisia will be hopeful their English-based stars Yohan Benalouane and Wahbi Khazri as well as local prodigy, Saber Khalifa, to inspire them against their more fancied opponents.
On Tuesday, Senegal’s Teranga Lions will battle it out with Poland at Otkrytie Arena in the capital Moscow.
Kickoff is 17h00.
Senegal (2002) is one of only three African teams (together with Cameroon in 1990 and Ghana in 2010) to reach the quarterfinals of the world’s biggest football competition.
The current Senegalese side has an abundance of talent most prominently Sadio Mane, one of the top performers in the last European Champions League as English side Liverpolol reached the finals.
He is ably supported by fellow attackers Pape Moussa Konate, Keita Baldé Diao, Diafra Sakho and Moussa Sow.
Reliable goalkeeper Khadim N’Diayeis behind a defence marshaled by Saliou Ciss, Salif Sané, Kalidou Koulibaly and Adama Mbengue.
The kinetic midfield usually bossed by Kara Mbodji, Badou Ndiaye, Cheikh N’Doye and Cheikhou Kouyaté is expected to power the West Africans to a favourable result against the Biało-czerwoni (The White and Reds) of Poland.
Selected fixtures for the week
Sweden vs Korea Republic: (14h00)
Belgium vs Panama: (17h00)
Tunisia Vs England: (20h00)
Poland vs Senegal (13h00)
Colombia vs Japan (16h00)
Russia vs Egypt: (19h00)
Portugal vs Morocco (13h00)
Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia (16h00)
Iran vs Spain (19h00)
France vs Peru (13h00)
Denmark vs Australia (16h00)
Argentina vs Croatia (19h00)
Brazil vs Costa Rica (13h00)
Nigeria vs Iceland (16h00)
Serbia vs Switzerland (19h00)
SATURDAY, Belgium vs Tunisia (13h00)
Germany vs Sweden (16h00)
South Korea vs Mexico (19h00).
– CAJ News