Africa's Five complete WC preparations

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Results and performances have been mixed, but largely, observers of the continent’s teams have a better idea of what to expect from the quintet once the competition kicks off.

In this feature, KICK OFF run through the final few warm-up games and pre-tournament preparations for Africa’s Five.

Nigeria:
Two Further Matches Played: Drew 0-0 with Greece & Lost 2-1 to the United States of America

Following the draw to Scotland, there was an expectation that things would only improve for Nigeria. While Uche Nwofor’s late equaliser had spared some blushes, few could ignore the fact that, for long periods, the Scots had outclassed their more illustrious opponents. Even more concerning was the disjointed nature of the Super Eagles’ performance and the near-total absence of cohesion.

“Hopefully”, the official line read, “once Keshi has separated the dead wood from the Brazil-bound stars, once he had settled on his starting XI, things will click into place.”

They haven’t, and as has been explored extensively since the defeat to the United States, the mood among Nigeria supporters has largely changed.

The somewhat bewildering selection decisions of the manager, the injury to Elderson Echiejile and the poor results and performances could, as individual concerns, perhaps be overcome, but coming altogether, they shed major doubt over Nigeria’s prospects in Brazil.

The news that Enugu Rangers are standing in the way of Ejike Uzoenyi joining up with the squad just adds a farcical element to an uncomfortable few weeks.

The Super Eagles can still pull it together. As openers go, things couldn’t have been too much easier than Iran, but Stephen Keshi needs to earn his salt in order for the side to realise their undoubted, unlimited potential.

Vincent Enyeama remains a point of pride and of genuine class, but ahead of him, there remain unanswered questions and unresolved issues.

Can Juwon Oshaniwa cut it at left-back? Can Kenneth Omeruo avoid injury and/or stay fit? Will Keshi opt for a midfield configuration that gets the best out of John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi? Can Peter Odemwingie reciprocate on the wave of optimism and euphoria that greeted his return to the national side?

Hold onto your seats!

Ghana:
One Further Match Played: Beat South Korea 4-0

The Black Stars needed a fillip after consecutive defeats to the Netherlands and Montenegro. 

The mood was also affected by the late injury suffered by centre-back Jerry Akaminko in the dying minutes against the Dutch. The centre-back had started Ghana’s last four games and would have been a safe bet to take a starting berth in Brazil. The Eskisehirspor man also offered something that the other centre-backs don’t, composure on the ball, and his absence threatened to cast a shadow over the Black Stars’ final preparations.

South Korea, therefore, were, retrospectively, ideal opponents.
The Asian side struggled to cope with the directness of Kwesi Appiah’s forwards, and despite enjoying their fair share of chances, were outclassed in a 4-0 defeat.

An early injury to Waris Majeed—for whom the prognosis looks iffy—again threatened to dampen the enthusiasm of the West Africans, but from disaster sprung joy as Jordan Ayew rose to the occasion. The Marseille forward rose to the occasion and looked like a man possessed (as he had failed to do in starts against the Dutch and the Montenegrins) and scored a hat-trick.

Ghana brought Christian Atsu, Wakaso Mubarak, Albert Adomah, Afriyie Acquah and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu off the bench, and didn’t even turn to Michael Essien. 

Be under no illusion, this is a team with buckets of options and reservoirs of talent.

Cameroon:
One Further Match Played: Beat Moldova 1-0

After impressive performances and results against Germany and Macedonia, Cameroon needed to just continue the momentum in their bubbling Yaounde send-off against Moldova.

The Eastern Europeans didn’t represent too much of a challenge, but despite bossing the possession, the Indomitable Lions only found the net once, through winger Edgar Salli.

This was perhaps little surprise considering the absence of impetus from the players and the much-altered line-up. 

Only six players retained their place in the starting XI following the draw with Germany, while there was a return to action for Aurelien Chedjou.

Despite being exposed in the recent 5-1 hammering by Portugal, the Galatasaray stopper is a key man for the Lions and should take his place in the starting line-up for the side’s first game, against Mexico, on Friday.

Cote d’Ivoire:
One Further Match Played: Beat El Salvador 2-1

After a fairly under-strength team were beaten by Bosnia, it was important for the Elephants’ star men to return to the side and pick up a win against the minnows of El Salvador.

This they did, with goals from Gervinho and Didier Drogba establishing the West Africans in a position of dominance. The latter’s goal, his seventh in nine internationals, was particularly pleasing.

They weren’t wholly convincing though, and a typical Kolo Toure blunder saw the Central Americans reduce the arrears from the penalty spot. 

One caveat, perhaps, from any defensive uncertainties was the absence of Didier Zokora who brings something different to the backline, but has been suffering with malaria.

A growing concern for the Elephants is the fitness of Yaya Toure.
The Manchester City powerhouse faces a race against time to be present for the opening game against Japan, according to coach Sabri Lamouchi. He, as no one needs reminding, would be a major loss.

Algeria:
One Further Match Played: Beat Romania 2-1

The main headlines to come out of Algeria’s friendly against Romania in Switzerland concerned the misbehaviour of the fans and Vahid Halilhodzic’s plea to supporters to compose themselves and stop throwing things onto the pitch.

His call for calm didn’t quite work, but beyond the controversy and the ugly scenes, there was a hard-nosed, professional and well-organised victory from the Desert Foxes.

The North Africans have now won their last four, and five of their last six, there won’t be too many sides heading to Brazil in better form.
Again, Halilhodzic impressed with the way he played around with his resources. Algeria are stable, and have an established spine, but they have options in wide zones and danger areas, making them a dangerous prospect.

Goals for Nabil Bentaleb and El Arbi Soudani gave the Desert Foxes the victory and put them well on the road to a prosperous start in Brazil.

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A number of readers have sent me questions which I will endeavour to respond to in a Question and Answer feature with Kick Off before the tournament begins, if you have any questions or issues you want to put to me, please write them in the comments section below and I will include them in the editorial.

Follow Ed Dove on Twitter @EddyDove

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