It's knockout football already for African team

Defeat for Algeria on Tuesday completed a miserable start for Africa at the World Cup in Brazil with only the heroics of aging Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba to enthuse over.

The 36-year-old came on as a substitute to help the Ivorians come from behind to beat Japan on Saturday but for three of the other four African representatives, their chances of a second round berth are already looking bleak with the tournament not yet a week old.

It's already essentially knockout football for them.

Algeria, the last of the African sides to get their finals campaign underway in Brazil, were beaten 2-1 by Belgium in Belo Horizonte.

Ghana and Nigeria, whose coach Stephen Keshi said there was no reason why an African team could not win this World Cup, are on the back foot while Cameroon sit on the brink of elimination.

Ghana's coach Kwesi Appiah confidently predicted his team, who showed the best form in the African qualifiers, would better their quarter-final placing of four years ago but even after losing to the United States on Monday still seemed buoyant about his side's potential.

"It's not going to be easy to qualify for the group, but we'll give everything to do just that. We're going to have to play well against Germany and I know we'll give them a good game," he said.

The 2-1 loss for the Black Stars, who conceded an injury time winner, means Ghana must now get results in their remaining Group G games against Germany and Portugal.

Nigeria failed to break down a defensive Iran and were jeered off the field after a 0-0 Group F draw in Curitiba.

It puts them under pressure to now beat Bosnia in their next game on Saturday and then also likely needing points from their last group game against Argentina.

Cameroon will be eliminated if they lose to Croatia in Manaus on Wednesday, having already been beaten by Mexico in their first Group A game last week.

They may be without captain Samuel Eto'o, possibly ruled out because of a knee injury, in a major blow to their already faltering chances.

Algeria still have a chance to turn around their fortunes against a far from impressive Russia and South Korea in Group H. But without the momentum of winning start on Tuesday they now must find extra capacity to get past the group phase for the first time in their history.

It is the Ivorians who now hold the continent's realistic hopes after a start that compounds the misery of 2010, when Africa had six sides at the finals and just one of them got through the initial stage.

Their 2-1 win over Japan in Recife leaves them in confident mood for their remaining Group C games against Colombia and Greece and on course to achieve their target of getting past the first round for the first time in three tournament appearances.

"We are close to qualification. This is important and we need to focus," Ivorian fullback Serge Aurier told reporters.



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