Predicting potential impact of African sides in Russia
All is taking shape for next year's FIFA World Cup. As usual, Africa will be represented by five nations, namely - Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal. With loads of expectations on the shoulder of these ones, we preempt their potential impact in the Russia World Cup.
Senegal was the last team to qualify from the mother continent. The Teranga Lions needed back-to-back victories over South Africa to affirm their place from Group D. Interestingly, Alou Cisse, who captained them last time they made it in 2002, orchestrated their return.
Compared to the other four, Senegal boast perhaps the strongest squad. Sadio Mane, Cheikhou Kouyate, Kalidou Koulibaly and the likes will be expected to lead the charge. But after such lengthy absence, the Teranga Lions may find it difficult to cope on the global stage. Cisse, himself, hasn't managed at the highest level. Not forgetting the ageless bonus row and internal rancour with African teams.
Verdict: Group stage
Tunisia will be staging a comeback after missing the last two editions. The Carthage Eagles had participated in four, enjoying a hot streak from 1998 to 2006. But dismally, they didn't go past the group stage in all four.
They are currently the highest ranked African side. And unlike Cisse, Nabil Maaloul has built his team predominantly around locally based players. Evident in the way they play, discipline and teamwork. However, the team's struggles during the qualifiers could as well spell doom for them in Russia. Just one point separated them from second-placed DR Congo.
Verdict: Group stage
For the first time in 20 years, Morocco will be at the World Cup. An improbable 2-0 victory away to Ivory Coast 2-0 in the final group game helped achieve that. More surprising, they went the entire series without conceding.
Coached by charismatic Frenchman, Herve Renard, the Atlas Lions is expected to, at least match, their second-round best-ever finish in Russia. And that is very much feasible owing to the pedigree of their manager and the team's perfect blend of youth and experience.
Verdict: Second Round
The 28-year wait is finally over. Egypt will participate in their first World Cup since Italia '90 and third in overall history. The Pharaohs will be aiming to make the wait count by going past the group stage for the first time.
Though they qualified with a game to spare, Hector Cuper's team weren't very convincing throughout the series. They were hugely reliant on Liverpool's Mohamed Salah to win games. In fact, the ex-Chelsea star was directly involved in all their eight strikes (5 goals and 3 assists). That could hunt them at the tournament, as he will definitely be the target of opposing teams.
Verdict: Group Stage
Nigeria was by all standards the most solid side during the qualifiers. Not only were the Super Eagles first to secure its place, they garnered the joint-most points and goals (14).
Unlike the other four, Nigeria has enjoyed tremendous success in the last two decades. In fact, they've failed to qualify just once for the last seven editions.They parade the most talented young crop on the continent. So the pressure will definitely be on them to make first quarter-final. Their recent 4-2 thrashing of Argentina in an international friendly affirmed their readiness. Also, the recently signed truce between the country's FA and players will help avert the ugly match bonus rows in major tourneys.