I do not wager. But we have entered a very serious period of global permutations and combinations about the 2014 World Cup. It is a game outside the main game and it is all around me.
So, I am looking at the information released by 1960Bet, the sponsor of this page, about the odds of the African representatives winning the World Cup. It is revealing.
In practical terms and for those that may not know how it works, if you are interested in ‘investing’ even a token in this game-outside-the-game this should interest you.
Permit me to try to explain it the easiest way I understand it. If the odds of a team winning the World Cup is say 200-1, as released by a betting company, if you wager 10 kobo on that team winning and it eventually does, you stand to get 10 kobo multiplied by the odds (200), in this case 2000 kobo! It is as simple as that.
The better the rating of the team, the lower the odds. For example, the odds of Spain, the current World Champions and number one ranked country in the world, winning the championship are 5-1. That means you can only multiply by 5 whatever you wager should Spain win!
At the same time the odds of Honduras winning are 2500-1! You will multiply anything you wager by 2500 if they miraculously win. That’s why the stake is high!
So, with that explanation at the back of my mind, I academically use the odds of the African representatives as a barometer to gauge what the global betting experts think about the chances of the African countries.
I add to that a quick look at the key person in each of the teams in continuation of my look into the crystal ball.
Odds of winning: 1000-1
Very low rating. Almost no chance given!
Key player: Sofaine Feghouli (Valencia FC, Spain). He is a relatively new player in the Algerian team, having switched his allegiance from France to Algeria in 2011.
He is playing regularly for Valencia at the close of season and this will definitely help his well-known creative skills in front of goal.
Odds of winning: 400-1
Low rating. Given very slim chance.
Key player: Alex Song (FC Barcelona).
It is ironic that the player with the highest profile in the Indomitable Lions is Alex Song.
He is not a regular in the best team in the world (FC Barcelona) where he plays. He is versatile in defense and the midfield, capable of playing several positions – central defense, defensive midfield, or even as anchorman between defense and attack. He may not be a game-changer but is expected to lift the confidence of his teammates by his example.
Odds of winning: 125-1
Most highly rated African country.
Key Player: Yaya Toure (Manchester City FC).
He has been Africa’s best player in the past two years, and one of the best midfielders not just in Europe but also in the world.
His performances from match to match are immaculate, a textbook demonstration of how to play in central midfield! He is the complete package – inventive, intelligent, strong, deceptively fast, powerful, clever, elegant, with an excellent vision, great passing and dribbling skills and a deadly finish around the box! It would not surprise anyone if he, one day, wins the world’s Player of the Year award.
How far the very talented but ageing Elephants side goes will depend on him.
Odds of winning 150-1
Average rating. Better than Nigeria but higher than Cameroun and Algeria.
Key Player: Kevin-Prince Boateng (Tottenham Hotspurs, England)
Having played for giant clubs like Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan and Schalke 04, it is easy to appreciate why Kevin will be pivotal to the performance of the Black Stars in Brazil.
He is expected to come into his own, with his experience and supreme goal scoring skills as great assets to complement Asamoah Gyan in attack.
Odds of winning: 200-1
Average rating. Below Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana.
Key Player: Vincent Enyeama (Lille FC, France)
It is a reflection of the state of the Super Eagles that the best performing player in the team at this time is the goalkeeper. That tells a story.
The other star players (Mikel Obi and Victor Moses) are not regulars in their clubs and their form, going to the World Cup, is unknown.
Vincent would provide reassuring safe hands and confidence that the Eagles would need as the team works hard to shake off its players’ rustiness and hope that they will mature and improve into the group matches.
The EPL and it’s African Ambassadors!
Even though I have not been commenting, I did not miss any minute of the exhilarating climax of the EPL season. It captures the beauty, unpredictability and unbridled passion of football.
As I was watching the drama, so was I also sifting through the African players to observe how a few of them going to the World Cup were doing. There has not been much to observe.
It is interesting to note how Manchester City FC survived the pressure of the last-minute, nail-biting finish to the season to rise above Liverpool and Chelsea. This achievement, the second in three seasons, has the massive imprint of probably the best holding mid-field player in the world this season – Yaya Toure.
Yaya has removed any doubts or questions about why he won the African Player of the Year award early this year ahead of Mikel Obi who has ‘faded’ from the EPL football radar. There is no other player from Africa that comes even close to matching Yaya’s masterful displays from week to week this season again.
However, there is one other player of interest, he is also an Ivorian. Cheik Tiote is playing some of the best football of his career. He plays in the heart of the Newcastle FC defense. Although he is only on loan to the club this season, he has elevated his game tremendously.
Brazil would provide him an excellent platform to showcase himself. At the same time and from the same team, comes a different story.
Shola Ameobi, fringe player in Nigeria’s Super Eagles, put up a very poor conduct in his club’s last match against Liverpool FC last weekend. His fate now depends on how Stephen Keshi, the coach of the Nigerian team, takes his pedestrian performance (a reflection of his performances most of the season) in the match and his dismissal.
In a totally avoidable confrontation with the centre-referee within the space of a few seconds, Shola received, first, a yellow card, followed almost immediately by a red card for repeated dissent! He lost his cool and his team lost the match.
For a player that is on ‘stand-by’ in the list going to Brazil, he may have just blown his chance. No coach can afford to take chances with a player that has no control under pressure.
Nigerians will not lose any sleep or shed any tears if Shola Ameobi does not go to Brazil with the Super Eagles.
Outside of the EPL, shining with the radiance of a million stars, is Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama, who has evolved this season in the French league into a truly world-class goalkeeper!
Otherwise, I join all the numerous Gunners that surround me in celebrating Arsenal’s narrow ‘escape’ this season!