Africa suffers again as Morocco, Egypt among first to exit World Cup

Morocco and Egypt are the first teams to be eliminated from the World Cup along with Saudi Arabia, and it appears only fitting that two African sides exit early as the continent has so far enjoyed poor results. But there may also be hope in the form of Senegal.


Africa has mainly endured World Cup results to forget in Russia and it is somewhat fitting that two of its five teams, Morocco and Egypt, are among the first to be eliminated.
Like in their opening 1-0 defeat against Iran, Morocco were wasteful against European champions Portugal, losing 1-0 again on Wednesday from Cristiano Ronaldo's early header to be assured of not making the last 16 from Group B.
Egypt's fate was confirmed almost a day after their second Group A defeat, 3-1 against Russia, when Uruguay beat Saudi Arabia to reach the last 16 along with the hosts, with the Saudis also exiting.
Some players wept but they got a warm send-off from their many fans at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium, and Morocco coach Herve Renard insisted that aside from the missed scoring chances the team had presented itself very well.
"I am not disappointed about the performance. I am very proud of my players," Renard said. "We have high quality players but should be more effective."
He also praised the passionate fans, saying some of them had driven all the way from Morocco and that "In this Moscow stadium we felt like we were playing in Casablanca."
Captain Medhi Benatia, who missed the final chance in stoppage time, said it should not be forgotten "that they are European champions and we have a young team" - with Morocco back at the World Cup for the first time in two decades.
Morocco had also been wasteful in the first game which no team can afford in an evenly balanced World Cup.
But it once again highlighted the woes of Africa which is yet to get a team into the semi-finals, let alone win football's biggest prize.
The continent boasts plenty of talent but the best showings are quarter-final berths from Cameroon 1990, Senegal 2002 and Ghana 2010 - with Ghana wasting a last-minute penalty in extra-time against Uruguay before missing the last four in a shoot-out.
In Russia, the five African teams have amassed five defeats and only one win - Senegal's 2-1 upset of Poland on Tuesday.
Nigeria and Tunisia are under pressure in their second games Friday against Iceland and Saturday against Belgium if they want to avoid the fate of Morocco and Egypt.
Senegal are better off, and it was their coach Aliou Cisse - who captained the 2002 team that upset then holders France in the tournament opener - who said that Africa's time will come.
"Some 20, 25 years ago African countries came just to be part of the World Cup and I think things have developed now. Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria have shown we can do much more. We just have to go to the next phase," he said.
The 42-year-old said a World Cup win for Africa may take more time because of the "realities" which other continents don't experience but that he and others now represent a new generation of tactically skilled coaches who could lead teams to new heights.
And with stars like Egypt's Mohamed Salah or Senegal's Sadio Mane - both more than impressive during the club season at Champions League finalists Liverpool - future success is not out of the question.
For now it could though well be that Senegal have to carry African hopes in Russia, but Cisse said they are ready.
"We are Senegal and we represent our country but I can guarantee the whole of the African continent is supporting our national Senegalese team," Cisse said.
"I am getting phone calls from everywhere. People do believe in our team, and they are proud and we are also proud to represent Africa."

Wednesday, June 20th 2018
(dpa)By John Bagratuni

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