Will an African team win the FIFA World Cup 2018?

Background

Africa World Cup 2018

Will an African team win the World Cup 2018?

The great Pele predicted that an African team would win the World Cup by the year 2000. We are coming to the 2018 World Cup and not only has no African team come near to winning the World Cup but no African team has looked even capable of winning the biggest prize in football. This despite football – or soccer – being a huge passion in Africa.

When we think of who will win World Cup 2018, can we think of African teams being amongst the winners? Let’s investigate.

African Team Performances at the FIFA World Cup 2014

First of all, let’s take a look back to the World Cup in Brazil. How did the African teams do there? Well, there were some good performances in particular that of Algeria reaching the Round of 16 and playing excellently against the eventual World Champions Germany. They benefited from the players of Algerian heritage based in France and around the world. Nigeria also made it to the Round of 16, losing to another heavyweight France 2-0. Algeria came second in their Group behind Belgium and achieved a 4-2 victory over South Korea which was surely an upset as South Korea have a really good World Cup pedigree.

Nigeria finished second in their Group to Argentina who went on to reach the Final. They beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 and drew 0-0 with Iran, the first boring game of the tournament at that stage.

These were two pretty promising performances.

However, the other African teams at the World Cup 2014 didn’t do quite as well. Ghana finished bottom of the ‘Group of Death’ below Germany, the USA and even Portugal with an unfit Ronaldo. To their credit, they did earn a 2-2 draw with eventual Champions Germany. Ivory Coast and the other African finalists Cameroon did not even make it out of their Groups. Ivory Coast lost to both Colombia and Greece whilst Cameroon finished bottom of an admittedly hard Group including hosts Brazil and strong teams Mexico and Croatia.

And we shudder to even remember the disaster of American Coach Bob Bradley’s Egyptian team’s 6-1 destruction in the first leg play-off away to Ghana.

Overview of African Team Rankings

Africa's World Cup: Critical Reflections on Play, Patriotism, Spectatorship, and Space

When we take a step back and look at the African team performances at the World Cup 2014 essentially we find some good teams but we don’t expect them to beat world class opposition. Maybe like Ghana they can get a draw or Algeria even go to Extra time against Germany but there seems to be step in class between the African teams and the top level teams.

This is in fact reflected in the rankings of African teams in the latest FIFA Coca/Cola World rankings. The top African teams are clustered in the third rung of the rankings. Algeria is the highest placed African team in 32nd place with the Ivory Coast at 35, Ghana at 36 and Senegal at 41. Egypt at 43 and Tunisia at 45.

It is only downhill from there with South Africa as low as 67 in the world rankings and the once mighty Cameroon 53rd. The current Africa Cup of Nations Champions Nigeria are in 70th place. With Zambia the previous winners being in only 88th place and in danger of missing the 2017 tournament.

Do these rankings look like the rankings of potential World Champions?

Some Shocking Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier Results

We also have some absolute upsets in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification for the tournament which takes place between January and February 2017 in Gabon. Some tiny teams such as Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe who are banned from World Cup 2018 for basically being bankrupt and unable to pay their players. Nigeria are reeling from the death of their talisman as a player and winner of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Now we do have some of the heavyweight African teams already having qualified including Senegal, Cameroon, Algeria, Morocco, Ghana and Egypt. As we have already seen though these teams cannot be rated as world beaters based on their FIF/Coca-Cola World Rankings.

Plus the Africa Cup of Nations itself is pretty tumultuous with both Morocco and Libya as hosts either choosing to not host or being stripped of hosting the tournament. France when faced with terrorist threats still managed to host the Euro 2016 tournament. Morocco cancelled for fears of Ebola virus despite a lot of evidence being given to them it would be safe.

The Cycle is set to continue

Africa United: Soccer, Passion, Politics, and the First World Cup in Africa

Unfortunately for decades we have seen issues with African teams at the World Cup. From striking at not being paid or not being paid promised bonuses to issues with star players and also the home-grown versus foreign coaches, these only hinder performances.

There appear to be issues and differences between those who run the African Football Federations and the players according to African legends such as George Weah. However these are deeper issues and as Bob Bradley found out during his time as Egypt coach and chronicled in the American Pharaoh, the fans can often turn violent against the Federations as they did when burning down the Egyptian Football Federation offices.

With the retiring of star players such as Didier Drogba and the golden generation of the Ivory Coast, Michael Essien, Samuel Eto’o and others, there is also a fall in the level of the absolute world class African player at present.

And also only 5 places are available for the 48 African teams attempting to qualify makes it even less likely for African teams to succeed.

Little Success Likely for African Teams in Russia

Based on the evidence, it appears that there is little likely success for African teams in Russia 2018. Maybe some more Round of 16 appearances and a quarter final perhaps but more than that?

Unless of course, one African team can do a ‘Leicester‘ and surprise the whole world and finally take the trophy to Africa. What do you think?

FIFA World Cup Host City – Samara

Background

Samara World Cup 2018 Russia Host City

View of the city of Samara in the Volga River @ mix7777 Depositphotos

We have been investigating the 11 Russian Host Cities which will be bringing you the FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia‘a games.

We have already looked at St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Kazan and the capital city of the Republic of Mordovia – Saransk.

Samara – an important Russian City

Today we will be visiting the most Eastern host city namely Samara. It is the capital of the Samara region and is quite large, with 1.13 million people and being the sixth largest Russian City. The city was known as Kubyshev between 1935 and 1991 to honor the Bolshevik Valerian Kubyshev.

In fact this is quite an important city as the Soviets had planned this city to be the capital city of the Soviet Union if Moscow had fallen to the Nazis. In fact, many diplomats were actually evacuated there and there is even a 37 meter deep bunker built to house Stalin but never used.

Sadly though the 1.5 million Germans who lived in Samara before World War II either were forced to leave or put into forced-labor camps. After the War, the City became a closed city focused on military city. And eventually they played a major part in the Soviet space program including the building of the Vostok launch vehicle which sent Yuri Gagarin into space.

Samara itself was founded in 1586 becoming an official city in 1688. It has had a turbulent history. It was initially a Township inhabited by soldiers on the order of the Tsar of the time, Tsar Feodor 1 the Blessed to protect and control the area around the Volga.

A growing city

From there, it grew becoming a City as we have seen in 1688 and it grew with trade especially from the East. In 1780, Samara got serious and established some government institutions before reaching 15,000 inhabitants by 1850. In 1900 it was at 90,000 and by 1915, incredibly at 150,000. The ships coming along the Volga as well as the railway lines played a big part as did the city and region’s development of wheat becoming the largest flour producer in the whole of  Russia. Added to its trade status, it was serious developing.

In 1921, there was a lot of hunger after the City fell to the Red Army in 1918.

Today, Samara is high-tech and involved especially in aerospace including satellites and space services. It produces a lot of edible materials including chocolate, vodka, beer and food processing amongst others. Finally recovering somewhat after a difficult post-Soviet period.

There is lots to do and see here including the famous Cosmos Museum, Stalin’s bunker and many activities including boat rides along the Volga river, which is the largest river in Europe.

Samara and the FIFA 2018 World Cup Matches

The Samara Cosmos Arena which is planned to hold 45,000 is quite an important venue as it will host six matches including a Group game involving Russia and both a Round of 16 and a World Cup Quarterfinal. This is a real honor for a city not called Moscow or St. Petersburg. Here are the games being hosted in Samara:

Matches:
17 June 2018 16:00 – E3 vs E4 – Group E
21 June 2018 19:00 – C4 vs C2 – Group C
25 June 2018 18:00 – A4 vs Russia – Group A
28 June 2018 18:00 – H2 vs H3 – Group H
2 July 2018 18:00 – 1E vs 2F – Round of 16
7 July 2018 18:00 – W55 vs W56 – Quarter Final

Weather and Temperature

Russian Government Building Samara, Russia Original Vintage Postcard

Samara during June and July is generally quite humid and this is because of the precipitation levels and being so close to the Volga river. It can go from 29% to 98% humidity so please prepare yourseld. Although the average relative humidity is between 64-67% in June and July. The actual temperature has a daily average of 19.7 degrees Celsius in June (67.5 degrees Fahrenheit) and 21.5 degrees Celsius in July (70.7 degrees Fahrenheit). There are also an average of 15 rainy days in June and 14 rainy days in July so you will experience the conditions.

Soccer in Samara

Krylia Sovetov FC Russia Samara Soccer Football Vinyl Sticker 3 X 5 inches

FC Krylia Sovetov Samara is the local football team in Samara. They were founded in 1942 and are in the Russian Premier League reaching third place in 2004 as their best ever Russian Premier League performance.Before that, their best achievement in the USSR Championship was 4th place in 1951.

Krylia Sovetov means “Wings of the Soviets” which reflects the City’s focus on space and aerospace.As per their English Language website, have played in the UEFA Cup reaching the first round in 2005/06 losing to AZ Alkmaar of Holland. And they lost in the Third Qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League in 2009/10 to St. Patrick’s Athletic of Ireland.

After the World Cup 2018, Krylia will take over the Samara Cosmos Arena and leave their current Metallurg Stadium. Watch FIFA’s Official Video on FC Krylia Sovetov Samara.

 

 

FIFA World Cup 2018 Host City – Saransk

Background

saransk russia fifa world cup 2018 host city

SARANSK, RUSSIA – World Cup Host City Mordovia State University Copyright @ alendelong DepositPhotos

Here at Destination Soccer, we are getting you ready for the FIFA World Cup 2018. We already know some of the regional champions. We have Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Portugal triumphing at Euro 2016 and Chile for the second time in two years beating Lionel Messi’s Argentina for the Copa America.

But where will these teams actually play when they get to Russia 2018?

Well, we have been investigating the Host Cities. Already we have looked at the beautiful St. Petersburg and then Ekaterinburg which is Russia’s fourth largest city and then the incredibly interesting capital of the Republic of Tatarstan – Kazan. (These are real names believe me).

Today’s Host City, we have to be honest. We had never heard of this city – Saransk. This goes to show just how mystical and how unexplored a lot of Russia is for most of the World.

That is one of the goals of a World Cup. It is not just the football and hosting it but bringing the world to explore parts of the world they have never seen before. Many English people traveled across Germany for the first time during the 2006 World Cup and it completely changed that country’s view of their former World War II enemy.

With Russia, we hope for people to really understand it is not just about Putin and Moscow but there is a whole world behind this. So, let’s explore Saransk.

Welcome to Saransk

This is a smaller city located in the center of Russia. With a population of around 339,000, it is actually the capital of the Republic of Mordovia (yes this is a real name!). This is a common thing we are finding about Russia. Many of the Cities which have been chosen to host World Cup 2018 games are the capitals of the Republics they belong to. For example, Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan whilst Saransk is the capital of Mordovia.

The City was founded in 1641 and takes its name from the river on which it sits -the Saranka river. It was actually built as a fortress city on the outskirts of South East Russia. Cossacks were the original peoples living here. The name of the fortress was Saransky Ostrozhek and was an important military location.

Over the decades, Saransk lost its military importance and was more important for trade and crafts.

Saransk City Day is on the 12th of June, two days before the World Cup 2018 starts and four days before Saransk’s first World Cup hosted match. So if you are visiting Saransk it might be worth you popping down there a little earlier.

The Republic of Mordovia is where all of the Finno-Ugric nations began. There are the Moksha and Erzya ethnic groups in the region, who were here long before Russia was formed. Today Saransk is world famous for the new Russian citizen – the actor Gerard Depardieu who has lived in the city since 2013. Perhaps you might bump into him on your way to the game or when you are wandering around the city?

Saransk and World Cup 2018 Matches

Saransk is home to the Mordovia Arena which will allow around 40,000 fans to watch the four Group games planned for the city. The stadium is located very centrally alongside the Insar River. The oval design reflects the unique bright colors of Mordovia’s arts and crafts which makes it unique amongst the World Cup 2018 Stadiums.

Matches:
16 June 2018 19:00 – C3 vs C4 – Group C
19 June 2018 18:00 – H3 vs H4 – Group H
25 June 2018 21:00 – B4 vs B1 – Group B
28 June 2018 21:00 – G2 vs G3 – Group G

Soccer in Saransk

FK Mordoviya Saransk - Russia Football Soccer Futbol - Car Sticker - 5

The local team is FC Mordovia Saransk who will take over the Mordovia Arena after the World Cup. The capacity will be reduced to under 30,000 for the club’s games. This club was technically founded in 1961 although its current format was set up in 2005 through the merger of two clubs.

Unfortunately, the 2015/16 season in the Russian Premier League did not go too well for FC Mordovia Saransk with the club being relegated to the Russian National League, the league under the Russian Premier League. It has had a bit of a yo-yo time winning promotion and then being relegated from the Russian Premier League in recent times. See a profile of the team on FIFA TV.

Full Destination Soccer coverage of the FIFA World Cup 2018

Can Portugal repeat their Euro 2016 heroics at 2018 World Cup?

An Unexpected Victory
LVIV, UKRAINE - JUNE 9, 2012: Portugal national football team pose for a group photo before UEFA EURO 2012 game against Germany on June 9, 2012 in Lviv, Ukraine

Portugese National Team (c) @ katatonia82 Depositphotos

Portugal shocked Europe and the rest of the world with their Euro 2016 victory. Not many people expected this, not even your trusty Destination Soccer team. (We had expected Spain to retain against Germany or France in the Final!)

But triumph Portugal did. Iceland played a big role in their success. First with their shocking 1-1 draw against the eventual Champions and then their success against Austria enabled Portugal to avoid the heavyweights in their side of the draw. Iceland did get an easy draw against England though!

Portugal are now ranked the 6th best side in the world after their Euro 2016 triumph in the FIFA Coca-Cola World Rankings. They are up two places from their position before the tournament began.

How did they do it?

Fernando Santos is an experienced manager who had a similar team to work with – Greece. He did spectacularly at Euro 2012 just when it seemed like his team was imploding after 45 minutes. They went on to have a great tournament including almost beating the hosts and certainly beating the mighty Russia.

Fast forward to four years later and he built his team around Ronaldo but this time playing Ronaldo as an out and out striker. With a world class defender in Pepe and some excellent young players including the surprising performance and goal from Eder in the Final and Santos was able to get a lot out of little. What can he do with this team in Russia at World Cup 2018?

The New Portugese Team

Earlier this summer, Borussia Dortmund acquired Portugal left-back Raphael Guerreiro from French outfit Lorient for a reported fee of €12 million. The defender had been instrumental for Lorient during his three years in Ligue 1 and had gone on to feature in over a 100 league games, scoring ten times in the process. He is likely to be the preferred left-back under Thomas Tuchel’s management at Signal Iduna Park and start ahead of Marcel Schmelzer in the 2016/17 season.

Joao Mario is being eyed by Italian giants for a fee a reported fee to be in the range of €50 million. The midfielder, still only 23, has been a solid midfielder for his club outfit.

Renato Sanches has already sealed a big money move to Bayern Munich and if his inaugural top flight campaign is any indication he is set for big success in the future. He turned in a series of splendid displays at the Euros and went on to grab two Man of the Match awards. His performance against Poland belied his young years and he topped up his quarter-final performance with an exquisite goal that drew the scores level.

The Spine of the Team

Cristiano Ronaldo World Cup 2018

Ronaldo’s disastrous World Cup 2014 @ jenta Depositphotos

And of course, Portugal have the ever-dependable stalwarts in Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet, no one gave them a chance of winning the European Championship in France. However, they upset the applecart and won their first major international trophy after beating the hosts France 1-0 in the final at the Stade de France.

Considering the fact that Portugal have a core of young players and they are only going to get better in two years’ time, it is not too farfetched to think that they have the potential to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Ronaldo, who suffered a knee injury in the final that curtailed his participation to just about 20 minutes, is likely to be around in 2018. Pepe, who turned in a series of splendid displays throughout the tournament and should have been awarded the Golden Ball for being the best player at the Euros, is also likely to be in the Portuguese squad in Russia. And if his performances in France are anything to go by, as he showed a calmer head and brilliantly marshalled the team from the back, he should be even better in Russia.

Also as we saw in the brilliant Ronaldo DVD Movie, Ronaldo had a disastrous World Cup 2014 and he said later he shouldn’t have played at that tournament and in fact, risked injury to do so. This time out he will want to go for the victory he wasn’t able to achieve the last time.

Of course, the Portuguese squad also contain a very capable goalkeeper in Rui Patricio, two up and coming midfield talents in Ruben Neves and Andre Gomes who make the team even stronger.

Portugal at World Cup 2018

We have already looked at Portugal’s chances at the World Cup. Now with actually winning their first ever tournament – Euro 2016, this sets up a completely different mentality. Remember, they have consistently reached semi-finals before including at the World Cup. Now they surely have the belief, the mentality, the players and the track record to potentially even make it to the World Cup Final.

All this point to the fact that Portugal do have a very good side ahead of the World Cup in Russia. If they continue to play with the cohesiveness that they did in France and rally around each other for a unified cause then it is likely that they can challenge for a first ever World Cup triumph.

Ronaldo #7 Portugal Away Soccer Jersey UEFA Euro 2016 (M)

Manager Fernando Santos did well to recognise that the strength of his team was a tight defence and he packed up his men behind the ball suffocating their rivals of any real openings. He is yet to lose a match since his appointment at the helm during the middle of the European Championship qualifying campaign.

Under Santos, Portugal are in capable hands, and the world better watch out for them in Russia.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Host City – Kazan

Background
(c) John Perry - Flickr

(c) John Perry – Flickr

We have been investigating the FIFA World Cup 2018 Host Cities, having already looked at St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. There are 11 host cities in total and let’s investigate another city in Russia – Kazan.

The History

Kazan is one of the oldest cities in Russia. In fact, in 2005, it celebrated its 1,000th birthday, having been founded in the year 1005. How is that for history?

 

The City

Kazan is the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan. It has a population of 1.1 million people, making it Russia’s eight largest City. What is interesting in this city is the breakdown of the people. Around 47-48% of the people are ethnic Russians and the same percentage again are ethnic Tartars.

It is located 825 miles away from Moscow. According to the official FIFA World Cup 2018 website, there are over 100 different nationalities in Kazan.

The Tartar people speak their own language Tartar and are predominantly Sunni Muslim. This mix just shows how huge and ethnically diverse Russia is. Something the West does not always see.

In 2015, Kazan was visited by 2.1 million tourists, more than the actual population. The Kazan Kremlin was visited by 1.5 million tourists in 2015. The City is divided into seven districts with the Sovetsky district having the most people at 275,514.

Football in Kazan

FC Rubin Kazan is the local soccer team playing in the Russian Premier League. They play at the Kazan Arena which is the venue for the World Cup 2018 games.

Rubin Kazan was founded in 1958 and only actually joined the highest level of football in 2003. They won the Russian Premier League in both 2008 and 2009 plus the 2011-12 Russian Cup.

They have a multinational team including Frenchman Yann M’Vila and have played in both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League on regular occasions.

Temperature in June/July

So let’s get down to the weather. Kazan has warm, dry summers but not oppressive. The mean or average summer temperatures are 18.1 degrees Celsius in June (64.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and 20.2 degrees Celsius in July (68.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The average highs in July can get upto 25.5 degrees Celsius (77.9 degrees Fahrenheit) which is hardly bad compared to many parts of Europe which can be really oppressive during the hot summer months.

Kazan and the World Cup 2018

The Kazan Arena with an expected capacity of 45,000 people will be hosting six matches during the FIFA World Cup 2018. This includes a round of 16 game and even a quarter final:

Matches:
16 June 2018 13:00 – C1 vs C2 – Group C
20 June 2018 21:00 – B4 vs B2 – Group B
24 June 2018 21:00 – H1 vs H3 – Group H
27 June 2018 17:00 – F4 vs F1 – Group F
30 June 2018 17:00 – 1C vs 2D – Round of 16
6 July 2018 21:00 – W53 vs W54 – Quarter Final

FIFA World Cup 2018 Coverage

Full Destination Soccer World Cup 2018 Coverage.