Mixed bag at World Cup…as Senegal carries Africa’s hope

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AFTER the first round of matches at the Russia Soccer World Cup, Africa now pins its hope on Senegal as four other representatives faltered in the first hurdle. 
Before Senegal’s match, Africa’s performance had been dismal casting doubt there would be continental representation in the Round of 16. 
Egypt who had an ordinary performance in the opener lost to Uruguay. They then lost 1-3 to hosts Russia on Tuesday. Morocco also lost 0-1 to Iran in an energy sapping loss. The 0-2 loss by Nigeria to Croatia further dampened the spirits of the millions of Africans. 
On Monday night hope was high that Tunisia would come out with at least a point against England, but the end result was a 1-2 loss. 
To progress to the Round of 16, teams need to at least finish the three group matches with six points.
Senegal’s victory over Poland raised Africa’s hope as they now have three points. 
Egypt’s heavy reliance on Mahomed Salah may have resulted in loss of confidence for the team when the Liverpool forward was ruled out due to injury.
A shoulder injury suffered by the Egyptian during the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid saw the forward on the bench during the team’s opener.
However, Salah played in a losing cause on Tuesday night and scored his first World Cup goal when he converted a penalty after being fouled in the box.
Definitely Salah could have had a huge impact at the World Cup had he had gained full fitness. 
After a 0-2 loss to Croatia, Nigeria have a tricky encounter today, Iceland. The Super Eagles need an outright victory to keep the African dream alive of progressing to the next stage of the competition. 
However, Iceland are the surprise package in the group after forcing a 1-all draw against Argentina, one of the pre-tournament favourites. The Iceland goalkeeper has been in top-form that saw him save Lionel Messi’s penalty.
The heroic save has made the Icelander a respected goalkeeper and might sap the confidence of the Nigerians.
Iceland, which is not known for football did themselves a great favour by forcing a draw with Argentina.
However, Nigeria must do better considering that most of its players ply their trade in the big leagues of Europe. Their skipper John Obi Mikel was a Chelsea midfielder who commanded a lot of respect at the English club. 
Nigeria’s has top-notch strikers that include Leicester City’s Ahmed Musa, Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho and Simeon Nwankwo.
The Nigerian technical team who are desperate for a victory will most likely employ an attacking formation.
Congesting the midfield and having one or two strikers upfront may do the magic for the West African side. 
Francis Uzoho who was in goals against Croatia and conceded two goals may be replaced by Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
Ezenwa plays for local side Enyimba the same team that former Super Eagles goalkeeper Vincent Enyema played for. 
Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi might be starting again to add creativity and attack in the midfield. 
In defence, Nigeria may make one or two changes to make sure they do not concede. 
Tomorrow, Tunisia who lost their opener against England in the dying minutes of the game will need to trade with caution as they face Belgium who won their group opener against Panama with an emphatic 3-0. 
Pundits in the pre-tournament previews had tipped Tunisia as the side to brew a shocker at the World Cup.
And they were about to do just that against England when they failed to hold on until the last minute. 
This time around they will tussle with the lethal Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.
Belgium are the dark horse of the tournament.
Tunisia have to work extra hard to clip the wings of the trio of Lukaku, Hazard and De Bruyne.
Tomorrow’s match will decide Tunisia’s fate at the World Cup. 
After round one matches, African teams need to ratchet up their action, turn the tables and not be among the first teams to go back home. 
This edition of the World Cup has had several surprises. 
The defending champions, Germany, got a shocking defeat in the opener while Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil failed to collect maximum points in their openers.

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