World Cup came too early for Africa

27 June 2010 - 00:34 By Marcel Desailly

I am really disappointed that Ghana was the only African side to make it to the second round. All the African sides seemed beguiled by the World Cup taking place on the continent, but African teams are not ready to win the World Cup.

The problem with African soccer is that the standard in the local leagues - be it Algeria, Ivory Coast, wherever - is not good enough; leagues are not well organised and local players do not play well in Europe. Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and others aside, when players are playing in Europe, are they first-choice players, do they start their games, are they well-prepared? Too often a player has spent the whole year on the bench and he's not fit enough when it comes to the World Cup.

Local players in African leagues, no matter where, battle to cope with the level at a global tournament like the World Cup, the pressure that is exerted at this level and the intensity of the game.

This is why Africa has not succeeded in South Africa. It is too early. But the continent has huge talent which just needs to be properly nurtured and developed.

Despite my disappointment at Africa's poor showing, there isn't a team in the last 16 who shouldn't be there.

I am really pleased Chile, Paraguay, Mexico and Uruguay have qualified because of the way they played. I am amazed at how Japan have been able to be so disciplined and so good.

The US is very strong, as they have previously shown in the Confederations Cup.

And there have been a few surprises in this World Cup. One was England. I was surprised they ended second in their group which means they meet Germany in their second-round match today.

This is going to be a battle between an enthusiastic young side and an experienced one. But for me the outcome will depend on how much pressure Germany is able to exert in the opening phase.

I think England is still recovering from the difficulties they experienced in the group stage, so the question is how Germany can use that and put them under pressure so that they lose their equilibrium and start questioning themselves.

There are three or four players in the England team who, if you play well against them, will lead to a negative German performance.

In today's other game I think it is going to be very tough for Mexico against Argentina. But Mexico have that tricky capacity that South Americans have to figure out how to nullify Argentina tactically. They might figure out how to block Leo Messi and Gonzalo Higuain.

While Argentina are the team I'm tipping to lift the World Cup, they have a big problem. They have three players not capable of defending when they have the ball. And if Veron plays, they sometimes have four players not running backwards on the defensive block.

If Mexico are able to beat Argentina tactically and technically, then I think they will be the surprise side who can win the trophy.

As for Brazil versus Chile, I think Brazil is going to be too strong. Chile have three key players suspended and physically they expended a lot of energy against Spain, which is going to make it difficult for them to compete against a fresh Brazil who fielded a lot of second-choice players in their match against Portugal on Friday.

But I don't think Brazil are going to go all the way. I feel that they rely too heavily on Robinho and Kaka. Without them they struggle a bit. Brazil are still a good side but not the top-class Brazil outfit we have come to expect.

I'm also tipping Portugal to spring a big surprise and beat Spain on Tuesday.

Portugal started very badly against Ivory Coast, but they've worked very hard and they are back to their best. I think Deco was a big problem for Portugal and with him out, the other players have started to take some responsibility.

Portugal are a very good side collectively. Spain have Fernando Torres playing at 70% of his capacity, Andres Iniesta is also carrying an injury. Villa is at his best, but I'm not convinced about Spain on a higher level.

My second favourites after Argentina are the Netherlands. They have dangerous players everywhere. They have Arjen Robben and now Robin van Persie is back at the top of his game.

I am impressed with the Dutch, defensively and offensively. The problem is that they showed the same sort of ability at the European Championship but fell short.

This has been quite a defensive World Cup. I am hoping the tactics will now change because we are in the knockout stage and we will see more offensive play as teams have to win.