On Tuesday, Ivory Coast bowed out of the tournament against a mediocre Greece team. Before the competition began, Les Éléphants was a dark horse to win it all and despite being placed in a manageable group, the highly-talented squad could not live up to the enormous expectation.
Ivory Coast’s elimination is a big dent in the continent’s reputation. Their loss to Greece combined with the bad performances by their compatriots means that the talent level and tactical minds of African soccer is not as advanced as the rest of the world.
In other words, Africa is the little brother to all other continents when it comes to soccer.
The continent is at least 10 steps behind the others. If you don’t believe me, just take a quick look at the quality in the teams from the rest of the world, especially Europe, and compare it to that of African teams.
It would be strident for me to suggest that these African sides lack top quality players; however, these players can’t be compared to that of European teams.
Take Nigeria’s John Mikel Obi as an example. The 27-year-old is a top midfielder – defensive midfielder to be exact ‒ and he is the best creative player on the Stephen Keshi’s roster. During the 2013/2014 season, Mikel only created nine chances in 24 appearances, via squawka.
Now, let’s compare his production to that of his Chelsea teammate, Eden Hazard, who is also playing in the World Cup with Belgium, and is also his country’s maestro. The 23-year-old played 35 games and created 92 chances.
Because Mikel is Nigeria’s mastermind, the country struggles to create chances and score goals against any team. Keshi’s men have only managed to put the ball in the back of the net once in two games in this tournament.
This goes for pretty much every African team. The lack of world-class creative gems haunts the continent. The last time an African nation had a superb No.10 was when Jay Jay Okocha was embarrassing defenders.
Another weakness that continues to draw African football into the drain is the lack of intelligent figures on and off the pitch.
Ivory Coast’s head coach is a perfect example of someone who desperately needs to study the game. Sabri Lamouchi made mistake that eventually ended his team’s campaign. In what was his final game as the nation’s manager, he took off two important players that would have made sure the team secured a positive result against Greece.
His first mishap was replacing Didier Drogba. Even though he was trying to be more defensive, Drogba shouldn't have been taken off because he is perfect player to help relieve pressure. The Chelsea legend has the experience and knows what he takes to get the job done.
His second was the decision to pull Gervinho off the pitch. I understand that the ex-Arsenal attacker is a defensive liability but if he had stayed in the game, he would most likely have scored a goal. Ivory Coast had multiple counter-attacks, but the player that replaced Gervinho couldn't make the most of the chances.
Poor decision making is the biggest difference between African players and European players.
On one hand, the likes of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney always seem to make the right decisions. They know when to pass the ball, when to take on their defenders and how many touches they have to take in order to get a clean look at goal.
On the other hand, African players are totally clueless. Their game management combined with atrocious decision making is behind their struggles on the international stage.
And finally, the governing federations in Africa are abominable. They treat their players with little or no respect, the fail to pay them and continually pressure coaches into making ill-advised decisions.