One could curse Japan for their dishonourable exploitation of the rules at Senegal’s expense. And quibble about refereeing decisions that went against Morocco. Bad VAR! But the fact is Africa had no representatives in the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in 36 years and no one was surprised. Not since 1982 has there been a World Cup knockout stage without an African side, but where did it all go wrong for the continent’s quintet? It would be wrong to extrapolate too much from one tournament and there are positives to which CAF could point, such as the fact that Senegal and Nigeria, in particular, deployed a clutch of exciting young players,such as Ismaila Sarr, Moussa Wagué and Oghenekaro Etebo, who could become even better thanks to their experience on the global stage.
And the role of bad luck does have to be acknowledged. Things might have panned out very differently for Senegal if Colombia had not had a man sent off in the opening minutes against Japan or if only two yellow-card verdicts had gone the other way. Injuries struck Tunisia especially hard even before the tournament began, depriving them,
most notably, of their most creative player, Youssef Msakni. Egypt were able to travel with Mo Salah but plainly not in his best state.
There are many issues one could point to a couple of curious weaknesses that African teams displayed during this tournament including flawed defending from set-pieces and a lack of deadly predators. That again raises questions about individuals and incomplete honing of potential and that has a lot to do with resources.
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