The decade started with so much promise for Africa. TP Mazembe stunned Internacional, and the everyone else, to reach the FIFA Club World Cup final.
The Lubumbashi did not go on to win it. But they had, seemingly, shattered a psychological barrier for Africans. A semifinal at the FIFA World Cup will be the equivalent of what Mazembe did (oh Gyan…).
Unfortunately, what followed that 2010 success was repeated failure. Only Al Ahly, in 2012, managed to reach the semis. Asia handed us 6 of the 8 quarterfinal defeats we have suffered at the Club World Cup in the 2010s.
The topic of when and how Asia overtook Africa in football is for another day. Now, discover the 4 reasons why Africa fails at the Club World Cup:
1. Curse of the Two Legs
African football is different. The home team always wins. This is the outcome of factors not limited to; unsporting intimidation of the away team and refereeing bias in favour of the home team.
It means that many match-ups come down to who plays the second leg at home more than anything else (like who is actually better). This is especially true for the semifinal and final stages of the CAF Champions League.
2. Conservative Play
Football is attacking again! The general trend in game approach these days is to press high. But have you seen any team play like this in the CAFCL?
Then, only teams from South Africa and Al Ahly play proactively even when away from home. You need this confidence to match the status of African Champions.
3. Slow Tempo
Do you know the secret of playing at a high tempo? It is simply playing 1-2s football. Us, Africans opt for the more laboured individualistic efforts of a winger or a midfielder to advance the ball. And because nobody practically presses anybody, we are not used to the pace of the game at the Club World Cup level.
4. Neglect of the Midfield
Where are all the ball distributors and deep-lying playmakers? African clubs are becoming like their national team counterparts. They want to play by bypassing midfield build-up. This is why you never see teams, in the CAFCL, string passes over a couple of minutes. There is always that one midfielder ruining things with a speculative shot from distance. We need to see more Sassi’s and El Karti’s bossing midfields (sorry, Jali and Coulibaly).