By Baleseng Batlotleng
GABORONE - Some pundits believe that African teams taking part in the World Cup have a realistic chance of going far in the tournament.
On the background of playing host to the best showpiece in the world, African teams are in a different and better position than previous tournaments and most importantly better prepared to achieve success.
In addition to convincing preparations ahead of the world spectacle that kicks off today in South Africa, Africa's representation of six teams is a record on its own.
African teams have competed at every World Cup since 1970 with the best performance being the quarterfinal berth achieved by the Cameroon team of 1990 and the enterprising and yet powerful team of Senegal in 2002.
When the draw for the World Cup groups was conducted in Cape Town last December, a lot of commentators ruled out chances of any team from Africa making it to the next round as they were drawn against what was referred to as difficult opponents.
For instance, the once African powerhouse Nigeria was pitted against Argentina, a great team on its own with an array of talent distributed all over European big spending clubs and currently boosting of the attacking tricky midfielder and world's number one, Lionel Messi.
Nigeria might have a better chance against Argentina in their opening game but will have to produce a polished performance against Greece and South Korea in their remaining fixtures.
As for the host South Africa, the latest FIFA ranking places them as the lowest ranked in their group.
Despite the poor form over the last few years, Bafana Bafana remain Africa's hope and have been buoyed by a recent run of 12 unbeaten runs and catapulted themselves into real contenders to finish at least in the top two ahead of either Uruguay, France or Mexico.
It might be argued that friendly games Bafana have been playing did not offer the same intensity compared to competitive matches before a big tournament.
They failed to qualify for the AFCON finals in Angola and that might become a big blow for their preparations. Before the AFCON talk of town was Ivory Coast but the Elephants went on to disappoint in the campaign.
However, Ivory Coast are one of the expensively assembled team on the African continent with world class players plying their trade in the best leagues in Europe.
They have done tremendously well in previous tournaments but never came with the right results and as fate would have it they have been drawn in what many refer to as the group of death, comprising Portugal, Brazil, and Korea.
Added to the tough opponents' problem is the injury of their star player and skipper Didier Drogba who still remains a doubtful starter ahead of their opening encounter with Portugal on Thursday.
Ghana has remained a consistent team from Africa and that can also place them as favorites at the moment.
They are capable of beating any team but the absence of playmaker Michael Essien has been described as devastating against tough opposition such as Germany.
They can count on edging out Australia and their coach's native homeland Serbia.
Their best record in the World Cup was when they made it to the second round when they lost to Brazil during their debut in 2006.
The Algerian Les Fennecs will be making their first appearance at the tournament since 1986 where they were eliminated in the first round.
They were the last team to qualify for the tournament after a closely contested battle with Egypt where they marginally won 1-0 and many will hope for better results when the Desert Foxes face the star studded England, USA and Slovenia.
Missing from coach Rabah Saadane's full strength squad is Lazio enterprising midfielder Mourad Meghini.