Goals win matches, but it’s hard to see where Team Africa’s will come from at Qatar 2022

ROBERT MADOI 

What you need to know:

It’s hard to tell if Eto’o is paralysed by painterly affectation when his faculty of prophesying makes him come to a conclusion that Cameroon will make it out of a group that has Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia. It should also be noted that Eto’o fancies the chances of Africa’s other representatives. 

Whether he was hazarding a guess or not, Samuel Eto’o’s prediction that his native Cameroon will win an all-African Fifa World Cup final on December 18 was oddly startling to hear.

The Cameroon FA (Fecafoot) president’s prophecy comes from the mistaken idea that—much like the Uefa Champions League—the World Cup is not spared of Cinderella stories.

But while referencing Internazionale’s Champions League win in 2010 brings convincing warmth, the uncomfortable truth is that the World Cup is a different animal altogether.

Even when distinguished pedigrees are threatened, with giants suffering chastening defeats as was the case in 2002, normal service always resumes.

At Qatar 2022, we should expect the usual suspects to lend great presence and maturity by demonstrating their star quality. The likes of Brazil won’t lose their power to bewilder and compel.

As for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, your columnist doesn’t have a crystal ball to state with finality that they will give an entirely insufferable performance.

It’s hard to tell if Eto’o is paralysed by painterly affectation when his faculty of prophesying makes him come to a conclusion that Cameroon will make it out of a group that has Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia.

It should also be noted that Eto’o fancies the chances of Africa’s other representatives. Yet after rifling through the annals one comes away with the knowledge of what ails Team Africa—the dearth of goals.

Eto’o’s Cameroon has played 23 matches at the big time. No African country has managed to surpass that tally. And how many goals have the Indomitable Lions managed from those 23 matches? A paltry 18.

Evidently, while at the World Cup, Cameroon’s players take aim at obvious targets, and make a mess of hitting them. And we are not talking slouches missing the bullseye here.


Eto’o, who had a singular brilliance even in the evening of his career, played at four World Cup finals. How many goals did he manage to tuck under his belt? Well, one. Just one.

Nigeria—with 23 goals from 21 matches—are the highest scoring African country at the World Cup. Côte d’Ivoire is the most prolific. But given its embarrassment of riches in the final third, one would expect more than just 13 goals from nine matches.

In Qatar, and shorn of the attacking prowess of Sadio Mané, Senegal will look to add to its tally of 11 goals from nine matches. They will have the Netherlands, hosts Qatar and Ecuador giving them company in Group A.

Since goals win matches, one can’t help but wonder where the Lions of Teranga will carve out theirs! If Mané—their all-time top scorer with 34 goals—is sidelined, Team Africa backers should probably expect Aliou Cissé’s charges to be dismayingly deficient in the final third.

They will doubtless assume a mournful edge in the company of Africa’s other representatives.


For all their obvious skill, Morocco and Tunisia have always fallen on lean times at the World Cup as far as goals are concerned. The Atlas Lions—inarguably the most balanced outfit Africa will field in Qatar—have mustered a measly 14 goals in 16 matches.

They will go in Group F alongside a Belgian side whose golden generation is in the last chance saloon and Croatia, the beaten finalists from the last World Cup.

Elsewhere, Tunisia’s past record of 13 goals in 15 matches doesn’t inspire confidence as does their presence in a group with reigning champions France and Denmark.

African football aficionados are equally dismayed that Ghana—who go to Qatar with a tally of 13 goals from 12 matches—still reckon the Ayew brothers are uniquely placed to deliver good tidings. Such aficionados should be forgiven for not sharing Eto’o’s optimism.

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