Five African stars who won't be heading to Brazil
Posted: 26 November 2013 Time: 08:57
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil looks set to be one of the greatest assemblies of talent that history has ever witnessed.
The globe’s two outstanding players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, will both be present, as will the glorious all-conquering Spanish side. A star-studded Brazilian team will bring their own collection of characters, notably Neymar, the world’s most-promising player.
Africa will also be strongly represented.
The continent’s champions, Nigeria, will look to make a strong showing; the Cote d’Ivoire’s Golden Generation receive one final chance to leave a lasting international legacy; and Ghana possess a midfield that would be the envy of almost any other nation in world football.
Cameroon, not to be outdone, boast Samuel Eto’o. He is, in my opinion, Africa’s greatest player of all time.
However, while the likes of Gareth Bale and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be missing from a European point of view, a number of big-name African stars will also be absent from the tournament.
Ed Dove lists five top Africans who won’t be making the trip to Brazil.
It feels like Aubameyang is on the cusp of announcing himself as Africa’s leading striker. If he’s not there already, it surely won’t be long.
The last two seasons have taken the Gabonese frontman to new heights. In 2012, his class was brought to the attention of Africa at the Cup of Nations when he impressed on home soil. He stole the heart of a continent with his tears following the Panthers’ penalty elimination and it was clear that we were watching a young man with a big future.
He certainly delivered on his promise last term with an outstanding return for French side Saint-Etienne. He was second only to Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the French scoring charts and even managed to guide the Loire club to League Cup glory.
A move to Tottenham Hotspur may have fallen through, but it was clear that it wouldn’t be long before Aubameyang was plying his trade in more elite surroundings.
He eventually moved to Dortmund in the summer, probably as a replacement for Robert Lewandowski, although the pair now work in tandem after the Pole’s move to Bayern Munich was postponed.
Gabon’s failure to escape Group E in the CAF Qualification programme means that Central Africa’s finest forward won’t be starring in Brazil.
Younes Belhanda, Abdelaziz Barrada and Adel Taarabt could all have easily slipped into this list, while the jewel in the Atlas Lions’ crown has to be their sterling centre-back Mehdi Benatia – or ‘Mehdi the Magnificent’ as Eurosport have christened him.
Benatia is a key figure in the Roma team that has quashed almost all before them this season. The whole of the team’s defensive unit – Leandro Castan, Federico Balzaretti, Vasilis Torosidis and even Daniele De Rossi – deserve praise, but even amongst these names, Benatia has been outstanding.
He, along with his teammates, have provided the platform upon which Roma’s attacking talents have the freedom to perform.
Benatia was absent for the terrible 3-1 defeat that Morocco suffered in Tanzania to all but end their World Cup dreams. He will be keen to make up for lost time in the future.
One of Africa’s finest prospects, Mohamed Salah is coming off the back of an incredible few years. He starred for Egypt at the Olympic Games, established himself in the senior national side, looked terrific against some major teams in the Europa League and also became a national champion in Switzerland.
This season, he and his club side Basel are making tentative, yet quietly impressive forays into the Champions League. The Egyptian forward has adapted well to this level of competition and has not looked out of place.
His dazzling performance against Chelsea suggests he is set for a long and prosperous future at this level.
Unfortunately, he was not able to cap off his progress with a spot at the World Cup; Salah was part of the Egyptian side that capitulated so vividly against Ghana in the play-offs.
Over the last 12 months the Burkinabe not only won a game at the Cup of Nations – the first time they have done so away from home soil – they also escaped a punishing group containing reigning-champions Zambia, soon-to-be-champions Nigeria, as well as emerging force Ethiopia.
Furthermore, the Stallions downed Togo and Ghana to make it to the final, an unprecedented achievement for the nation of 16 million. During that incredible run, Jonathan Pitroipa was the star of the team.
After the withdrawal, through injury, of the influential Alain Traore, Pitroipa shouldered the creative burden with some innovative performances. He also proved himself to be both a goal-scorer and a match-winner.
His terrific year was rewarded with a nomination for BBC Footballer of the Year, but unfortunately Pitroipa couldn’t achieve the ultimate goal … a spot at the World Cup.
I was close to shedding a tear as Ghana’s incisive movements and deadly finishing tore Egypt to threads in Kumasi. Had the Pharaohs qualified, it would have been one of African football’s most fascinating narratives, but as it stands one of the greatest cycles in the history of the continent’s sport is destined to be, forever, unfulfilled.
It is remarkable that, despite their hat-trick of continental titles, Egypt were never able to seal their standing with a berth at the international high table.
Few would have been able to have shined at the World Cup quite like Mohamed Aboutrika; national symbol, dazzling playmaker, all-round superstar, the veteran midfielder merits a place among the game’s elite.
Sadly, failure to make it to Brazil means that this legendary North African figure will forever remain an obscurity to the broader footballing community.
@EddyDove on Twitter