Despite fielding the youngest players in A national teams in 2015, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon continue to remain underachievers due to endemic age cheating, a CIES report has stated.
In its January 2016 report, the Swiss-based Football Observatory cast doubt on the declared ages of African footballers which it claims is responsible for the untapped potential of African teams in senior football.
Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon are listed as having fielded the youngest players among 50 sampled A national teams in 2015 – 24.7, 25.1 and 25.3 years respectively.
“However, this result must be analysed carefully insofar as footballers born in Africa tend to be older than they claim to be,” stated the report.
With the immense talent on the continent, only three teams – Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon – have ever reached the quarter finals of the World Cup.
However, both Nigeria and Ghana have regularly won world titles at youth levels, with Nigeria winning a record fifth Under-17 world title last October.
“Lying about one’s age is a common practice that implies a competitive advantage in youth categories,” said the report.
“However, in the long term, this strategy is counterproductive as it does not provide optimum conditions for the full development of talent.
“This is one of the reasons for which the real potential of African squads remains untapped.”
Fielding young players has its advantages as the report highlighted the impact of youth in the England national team that qualified seamlessly for the 2016 European Championship.
However, the Netherlands were let down by youth as they failed to qualify for the same tournament despite fielding players with an average age of 25.6 years, the same with England.
“In the first case, the bias towards youth has not been a success as the Dutch failed to qualify for Euro 2016. For the English, on the other hand, the results have been more positive.
“The youthfulness of the players available to Roy Hodgson is the sign of a renaissance which suggests a promising future,” the report said.
The remaining teams in the top 10 are Korea Republic, Algeria, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium.