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Stephen Keshi could take Togo all the way to the World Cup finals
Are the winds of change blowing through African football?
With just two more qualifying matches to play, four of Africa's 2006 World Cup places may be filled by first timers.
The biggest suprise has from come from the tiny West African nation Togo, led by Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi, which currently leads Group One ahead of 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists Senegal.
Ghana, Angola and Ivory Coast are also leading their respective groups and could be on their way to Germany at the expense of veterans Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon.
Why do you think that these upsets are taking place in the 2006 World Cup qualifyers?
Is it a sign that the winds of change are blowing through African football?
What does it all mean for the future of the game in Africa?
Send us your comments using the form on the right - some of which will be published below.
It is not only a sign that football is changing in Africa but it is also a sign that the veterans such as Nigeria and Cameroon are not serious about their football. How can team like Nigeria which has Okocha and Kanu and Obafemi Martins still have problems qualifying for the World Cup?
Ezekiel Olagoke, USA
Keshi is succeeding in Togo because of the support from the Togolese FA and the people. In Nigeria, he was a frustrated man. It would be nice if Ghana, Cote D'Ivoire and Angola qualify to tell the so-called big teams that the lesser teams also have claims to World Cup tickets.
Patrick Omorodion, Nigeria
The usual suspects being, Nigeria, Cameroon and the rest will always be dominant in Africa. Just because they miss one World Cup does not mean that they are less dominant, they've just had bad lapses, even Brazil has had those.
Boma Wokoma, Mexico City
The game is no longer the preserve of the big guns -Cameroon, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt and co. Let the wind keep blowing; blow until it can carry the game and its impact to Cape Verde, Seychelles, Lesotho, Equatorial Guinea etc.
Samah Abang-Mugwa,Buea- Cameroon
The standard of football is a reflection of the growth of the game in Africa though it is largely due to the development of the players in leagues outside Africa. It's left for us to make the best out of this situation. CAF, the world is watching!
Osric Tening Forton, Cameroon/Brighton, UK
Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa will still qualify. Two more games will change the table.
Callistus Okogbenin, USA
In the first place most countries now believe that they too can make it. It also shows that the continent continues to produce stars for the game who are committed to their individual nation's cause. It also shows that with lots of encouragement and support, our local coaches can stand holding their heads high among their counterparts in Europe. The case of Stephen Keshi is a good example. Finally, it goes a long way to show that if most of our FAs and governments put their houses in order, the beautiful game of football will have its future on the African continent.
Alfred Emeka, Nigeria
I sincerely hope it's a permanent change. Regardless of what part of Africa they are all from, they'll represent all Africans and make us very proud at the next World Cup in Germany 2006.
Ganny O. Ogunshakin, Silver Spring, Maryland. USA
One World Cup miss, if it does happen, is not a sign that the tides are turning. It is a good development however that 'weaker' contries are beginning to justify their existence. But, any day and any time, Nigeria and Cameroon are the giants of soccer in Africa!
Tony Izuogu, Nigeria
Gone are the days when the so-called veterans like Nigeria rely on names and sheer mediocrity to advance to the World Cup. I foresee Africa going beyond the quarter finals because these first-timers truly have drive and desire to do Africa proud.
Ekundayo Shittu, Massachusetts, US
The so-called veterans cannot be there at all times, they should give these underdogs a chance to prove their mettle to the rest of the world.
Lucky Onyeador Oviel, Brussels Belguim
It was clear right from the end of the first round matches in the World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifiers, that at least three of the five teams that went to the last World Cup would not make it this time.
Mark Ouma, Kenya
The traditional powerhouses in African football are not doing enough to accelerate the developement of football in their respective countries and as a result the so-called minnows have caught up with them. Ghana and the Ivory Coast are not particularly small countries in African football. It is their inactivty and administrative failures that has contributed to their fallen standards. Africa deserves to have the best at the world Cup so may the best countries qualify.
Isaac Ofosu-Agyei, USA
It gets a bit boring when the same old countries qualify everytime. These changes can only raise the standard of African football, because many of these players, having had a taste of the World Cup, will want more. What Steven Keshi has done with Togo is wonderful. I wish more African countries will give local coaches better support and more money to do their job.
Simon Onato, Spain
Apart from Togo and Angola, Ghana and Ivory Coast have always had the right technical know how to make it to the World Cup, therefore their present performance is not a surprise. Only time will seperate "boys from the men".
Tope Idowu, USA
My only fear is how will these first-timers fare when they face the established European teams at the World Cup.
Oloruntomigbekele Fasina, Nigeria
It is really satisfying to see the so-called "under dog" of African football emerge as possible representatives of Africa at the next World Cup in Germany.I am just happy for our continent.
Mangou Tibe, USA
I think we should all wait till the last qualifying games are played to be very sure if there are indeed upsets or just another smoke screen from the pretenders. Narrowing the gap is very healthy for African football, the close competition will only make us better and stronger and for sure make the Nations Cup more attractive.
This situation goes beyond the winds of change. A part of the reason for the upsets we've seen is that most of these countries who have been to the World Cup several times have had to deal with replacing most of their aging but influential players. This transition is not easy. More so, those countries have been rocked by a lack of planning, a situation that the emerging sides have have taken seriously. Ghana, a country that has dominated African football for many years, should have been at the World Cup long before now.
Agboka Godwin Yaw, Ghanaian, living in the USA
Ghana and Ivory Coast have been African football powerhouses for years - more like Holland in previous World Cups. They win but not on the big stage. So it won't be a suprise to see them qualify. Angola and Togo- now that is the fairy tale! I wish them the best.
K.M., Tiberius, E. Africa
It's because countries like Nigeria and Cameroon are not taking their qualifiers seriously. Had they done the right thing from the start all this would have been avoided.
Odumade Oluwaseun, Nigeria
Nigeria has always had a good crop of players but the NFA's decisions always hinder their progress. There was no need to disolve former Super Eagles coach Amodu Shaibu's coaching team of which Keshi was a member. Keshi is now the rejected corner stone performing outstandingly elsewhere. As for Ghana and Ivory Coast, they may be first-timers but they have always produced great African football stars who were not lucky to play at World Cup level.
Sylvester Amara Lamin, Sierra Leonean in Ohio, USA
Three reasons. First, the gap between football giants and minnows is fast diminishing. Dominant African nations such as Nigeria and Cameroon mistakenly under-estimate opponents at their own peril. Second, Africa's previously dominant teams are packed with complacent aging and aged players who lack the passion and hunger to do what it takes to win. Third, credit must be given to the talented coaching staff of emerging soccer nations, especially Togo's mercurial Stephen Keshi. Keshi and a few other successful coaches have been free from the meddlesome bureaucracy and petty politics that continues to plague Africa and diminish its chances on the global soccer stage.
Victor Oladokun, USA
With more African players getting the opportunity to play abroad, the nations who will qualify are those who are hungriest and most committed. If Nigeria or Senegal wants to get to the World Cup, they need to convince their players abroad the importance of patriotism. The big nations have skillful players but the will to win is a rare commodity.
Michael Lokale, England
Going to the World Cup is certainly not the issue but the question is will teams like Angola, Togo and Ivory Coast be able to hold their own when the chips are down? Will they be able to compete with the best teams in the world? I do not think that a team like Angola can even draw a game at the World Cup.
Victor Nwokocha, USA
If the veteran countries fail to qualify it will serve as a wake up call for all FA's in charge of organizing African football. They often forget that in real life nothing comes easy and to succed in every position under your control needs dedication and sacrifice.
R. Nana Antwi, New York, USA
Stephen Keshi, has really shown that Africa can depend on its citizens for the job of coaching instead of paying huge sums of money to foreigners.
Ojo Lucas, Nigeria/USA
If the likes of Nigeria and Cameroon think that the World Cup is their birthright, they are mistaken going by the facts on the ground. There is no doubt in my mind that Angola, Togo and Ivory Coast would be in Germany next year. When this happens, it would serve as a wakeup call on those left behind, and a reminder that planning, hard work and dedication pays.
One problem we have in Africa is the lack of good management.The talents are available.Once a team gets a good coach or manager, the performance is guaranteed. Ghana for sometime has been properly managed by Coach Dujkovic and don't be surprised if you see Ghana,Togo and Angola in Germany.
Daniel Baffoe, Japan/Ghana
Our African game could improve if we take time to understand the importance of infrastructural development. Until we solve that, I don't see how we can talk about the 'future'of the game in Africa.
The obvious reason for the upset - which is a welcome development - is adequate preparation and absolute determination. Nations Cup 2006 was Togo's target but Germany 2006 would be the reward for their hardwork. The results of the world cup qualifying matches is a sure sign of the long overdue winds of change that must and will blow through African football. Mediocrity cannot continue as a substitute for merit and diligence. The performance of Samson Siasia and the Flying Eagles of Nigeria at the just concluded World youth championship is testimony.
The power shifts in soccer has also become a trend in Europe. How can one explain Greece winning the European Cup or Chinese players in Europe's top leagues?
Tunde Odewale, USA
It is a sign that victory can only be guaranteed on the pitch,not by past glory. But with two more qualifying matches to play,anything could still happen for the veterans.
Amin George Forji, A Cameroonian living in Helsinki,Finland
Countries like Nigeria who have all the resources and talented players have suffered from mismangement and poor administration by the football authorities. Not just that, some national team players think they are above the coaches probably because they earn more than they (coaches) do in their respective European clubs. Stephen Keshi was sacked by the Nigerian Football authories because he questioned the system and so was Sunday Oliseh the former team captain for being outspoken. Keshi is now enjoying success in Togo and I wish him and his lads all the best.The future of African football is looking even brighter