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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Continental clash
Cameroon celebrate scoring against Argentina in 1990
Cameroon beat Argentina and Colombia in 1990

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Brazil's leading sports daily Lance has ranked all the World Cup first-round matches in terms of appeal.

A five star match is "unmissable". At the other end of the spectrum, one star means the game is "a cure for insomnia".

Among the few matches with only one star are both of Cameroon's opening games.

This type of slight to the less traditional nations is typical of the lazy arrogance of contemporary Brazilian football culture - and perhaps helps to explain Brazil's decline in recent years.

Danile Kome celebrates gold at the Sydney Olympics
Cameroon beat Spain in the final to win gold at the Olympics
It is worth noting that the current Cameroon side may well be the best team ever to come out of Africa.

And that's not forgetting that at the Sydney Olympics Cameroon had two men sent off and still knocked Brazil out on the way to gold.

Elsewhere in South America there will be considerable interest in Cameroon's progress - even though, in the first round at least, they are not set to meet any of the five teams from across the Atlantic.

But the struggle between Africa and South America will be sharp as the World Cup gets underway.

Of the three first-round clashes between the two continents, two are on the opening Sunday.

Paraguay face South Africa in a game where both sides will be looking for three points. A win will help take pressure off the coming clash with group favourites Spain.

And Argentina will look to get their eagerly awaited campaign off to a winning start against Nigeria.

It is an appropriate place for Marcelo Bielsa's men to start.

S America v Africa
13 World Cup meetings
Eight South American wins
Three African wins
Two draws

Diego Maradona's last match for his country was against Nigeria in USA 94. Now it is up to the current generation to show themselves worthy of picking up the baton.

After losing to Cameroon in the Italia 90 opener, there is no chance of Argentina taking African opposition lightly.

That tournament marked a high point of African success over South America - Cameroon also beat Colombia.

But there have been no African successes since - and the only one before was Algeria's 1982 victory over Chile.

So South America still holds the upper hand, with eight wins, two draws and three defeats in 13 World Cup games against African opposition.

The remaining first-round encounter between the two continents is a match with profound echoes in football history.

Uruguay's game against Senegal is their first World Cup meeting with an African side.

But over 80 years ago it was Uruguay, in the face of much opposition, who pioneered the selection of black players.

They opened the doors for those South Americans whose forebearers had been torn from Africa to toil as slaves in the New World.

Andrade of Uruguay, Pele of Brazil, Asprilla of Colombia - all had African roots, and their deeds on the football field did much to popularise the game in the continent their ancestors reluctantly left behind.


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