The African Nations: Interchangeable, Loveable, and Hopeful (World Cup 2014)

Africa - World Cup

Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria

World Rankings: Cameroon (56), Cote d’Ivoire (23), Nigeria (44), Ghana (37), Algeria (22)

Thoughts:

Don’t pay attention to those rankings up there, that ugly 56 or the 44 next to Nigeria. African nations rarely get the benefit of the rankings, nor do they need it. If a country like Cameroon or Algeria’s gonna advance, it’s gonna be all emotion anyway.

(Egypt also sits 36th in the world and they didn’t get in. Denmark ranks 22nd, and they didn’t, either.)

Truth is, Ghana’s the team everyone’s watching – both because they were the only African team to advance meaningfully in 2010, when the tournament was held in South Africa, and because they have quite easily the coolest damn uniforms in the tournament. The rest of the teams above are gonna wear shirts you could imagine finding in a K-Mart bin.

Apart from that, Cameroon has to Plinko its way into the top two in a group with Brazil, Croatia, and Mexico – it’s one the more wide-open groups in this year’s World Cup, which means the 56th-ranked team in the world has a decent shot to advance, as long as Mexico bubbles up from the inside like they have since the Olympics, and as long as Croatia… well, let’s just say it’s possible.

The 44th-ranked Nigerians also have a hope in a group weighted by Argentina but buoyed by Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iran.

Ghana has the toughest group, in G, but with bipolar opponents like the United States and Portugal – not to mention the pale Germans, who are going to be telling themselves the South American heat’s not bothering them in the same way the rest of us tell ourselves we’re fine after our 13th beer – every fan form Lisbon to L.A. should be afraid of the Black Stars. (I’m not being offensive… Ghana’s team name is actually ‘the Black Stars’.)

But it’s hard to tell. Portugal just blasted Ireland 5-1 in a friendly this week, while Ghana jettisoned South Korea 4-0 in Miami on Monday. But those were friendlies… do they matter at all?

Ask the Blue Jays how their phenomenal preseasons have helped them.

As for the Ivory Coast – the English way of saying Cote d’Ivoire, sort of like how we call Perrier ‘Club Soda’ – they’re definitely the team you’re familiar with, you casual fan, you.

Didier Drogba’s still kicking, which is good news for the Ivory Coast. Then again, that’s also terrible news – while Drogba was a force in the Champions League in 2012, for Chelsea, the game moves quickly and it’s definitely passed him along.

That’s not to say the Coast can’t come out of their group, and they definitely shouldn’t dwell on their 2010 loss when they were fatally stuck in a group with Portugal, the United States, and Brazil, but this is an older team that weren’t as good as they could have been when they should have been, and they haven’t gotten any better.

Then again, they drew Colombia, Greece, and Japan this time around… so who knows.

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

How far back should I go? In three seasons of Parts Unknown, he’s been to the Congo, South Africa, Morocco, and Libya. It’s almost like he purposely avoided everywhere I have to talk about today.

Mouth-Watering Recipe:

Mangoes.

Crystal Ball:

The Gerias – Al and Ni – are the only ones I *could* see advancing, but it’s not in their control. If Russia plays well, Algeria’s gone. If Bosnia plays well, Nigeria’s gone.

A (Coherent) Question:

Don’t have one. Nothing here tickles my curiosity.

Schedule:

  • vs Mexico: Friday, June 13 (9:00 a.m. PST)
  • vs Croatia: Wednesday, June 18 (3:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Brazil: Monday, June 23 (1:00 p.m. PST)

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