Asamoah Gyan etched his name into the record books on Thursday by setting the record for most goals by an African at World Cup finals. His sixth goal in tournament history – and his second in Brazil – saw him surpass legendary forward Roger Milla, whom he had previously been tied with after scoring in Ghana’s 2-2 draw Germany. Gyan’s impact on the World Cup is over for at least another four years, however, as Ghana finished bottom of Group G by losing 2-1 to Portugal on Thursday. Two African nations reached the last 16 (Algeria and Nigeria), which kicks off on Saturday, while three are heading home after three games (Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and the aforementioned Ghana). With three quarters of the competition having been played, is Gyan the stand-out African striker in Brazil four years after shining in South Africa, or has he got genuine competition this time?
Didier Drogba and Wilfried Bony, like Gyan with Ghana, could not propel Cote d’Ivoire out of Group C, though they can hardly shoulder the blame. Drogba might not have scored but he inspired the team to fightback after going a goal behind against Japan. Bony scored in that 2-1 win and then struck again in their key clash with Greece. The Swansea star’s goal was en route to put them into the knockout stages until Georgios Samaras’ injury-time penalty sent the Ivorians packing.
The outstanding African disappointment was unquestionably Samuel Eto’o. The Chelsea man was useless in the loss to Mexico then absent with injury for their heavy defeats to Croatia and Mexico. He is almost guaranteed to have played his last World Cup game and what a whimper of an exit it was.
Contrastingly, Algeria have been a breath of fresh air and Sporting striker Islam Slimani has been at the centre of their impressive entry into the last 16. After not starting against Belgium, he came into the XI against South Korea to kick off the goal flurry as Algeria knocked four past South Korea. Most crucially, though, he equalised in the second half against Russia to avoid elimination and set up a clash with Germany on Monday.
African giants Nigeria had hopes of escaping Group F after a kind draw and Peter Odemwingie’s strike against Bosnia-Herzegovina will be remembered as the crucial moment in their group stage. After a goalless draw with Iran, Stephen Keshi’s men would have gone out of the tournament had the striker not bagged the only goal of the game. Winger Ahmed Musa also scored two excellent goals against Argentina, but ultimately they had did not impact the final score as Lionel Messi and Co. saw off the Super Eagles 3-2. Fenerbahce’s Emmanuel Emenike has yet to truly make an impression for Nigeria, but he will have at least one more opportunity on Monday when they face France.