The Closest an African Team has Come to Winning the World Cup
Pele famously predicted that an African team would win the World Cup before the turn of the century. As the 2022 World Cup in Qatar looms, there has still yet to be an African team to win the biggest trophy in World football.
African football has had some big, big stars over the years. From Didier Drogba to Yaya Toure to Samuel Eto’o, there is no shortage of talent in Africa, but why hasn’t this translated onto the international stage?
There is a big reason for this, many footballers tend to commit to representing a European team, rather than the African nation in which they were born - this is most prominent in teams such as France.
However, there are more and more stars now, with more than one big star on different teams, which could lead to some African dominance in Qatar.
What is the furthest an African team has gone in the World Cup?
The Quarter-finals stage is the furthest point of competition that any African team has made at the World Cup - this feat being achieved by three different teams, Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon.
Ghana were the most recent team to reach the Quarter-finals, at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This was Ghana’s second time at a World Cup, having first appeared at the World Cup in 2006, where they reached the Round of 16 and were knocked out by Brazil.
In 2010, Ghana were drawn into Group D with Germany, Australia and Serbia. In the three games, Ghana won one, drew one and lost one, and were tied on points with Australia, but progressed due to their superior goal difference.
Ghana drew the United States in the Round of 16, where they finished victorious after extra time, with goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Asamoah Gyan giving Ghana the 2 - 1 win over the US.
The Quarter-final between Uruguay and Ghana has been remembered for all the wrong reasons. The winner of this game was set to play the Netherlands in the Semi-finals. The game was level at 1 - 1 at the end of normal time, though not without controversy. While in extra time, Ghana were awarded a free kick.
The initial free kick was blocked by Luis Suarez and the following header from Dominic Adiyiah was also blocked by Suarez, though this time blatantly with his hands. He received a red card, but Gyan missed the resulting penalty, meaning Suarez had successfully prevented a winner for Ghana. Uruguay then went on to win the penalty shootout 4 - 2, ending Ghana’s World Cup campaign.
Senegal entered their first-ever World Cup in 2002, where they defied expectations to reach the Quarter-finals. Drawn into Group A, Senegal had to face Denmark, Uruguay and France. Senegal finished the group second, with one win, two draws, three points clear of third place Uruguay.
In the Round of 16 Senegal drew Sweden. Pinned back from the start, with Henrik Larsson giving Sweden the lead in the 11th minute, Senegal equalised in the 37th minute with Henri Camara who also went on to grab the winner in extra time.
Senegal faced eventual third-place Turkey in the Quarter-finals. With the game 0 - 0 at the end of the 90 minutes, the game went into extra time, with Ilhan Mansiz scoring the winner for Turkey, and ending Senegal’s World Cup hopes.
The first African team to ever reach the Quarter-finals of the World Cup was Cameroon all the way back in 1990, with their impressive campaign perhaps inspiring Pele’s prediction.
Cameroon were in Group B, accompanied by Romania, Argentina and the Soviet Union. Though a tight group, Cameroon finished top of the group with four points, two wins and a loss and progressed to the Round of 16.
Colombia were the opponents for Cameroon in the Round of 16. The tie was goalless for the entire 90 minutes, with all three goals coming in extra time. Roger Milla scored twice in the 106th and 109th minute, leaving Bernardo Redin’s late goal only a consolation for Colombia.
In the Quarter-finals, Cameroon drew England. David Platt opened the scoring for England, with Emmanuel Kunde responding from the penalty spot. Cameroon then took the lead through Ebelle Ekeke but were pinned back to 2 - 2 by the end of the 90 minutes by a Gary Lineker penalty. Another Lineker penalty was the winner to send England to the Semi-finals, winning 3 - 2.
Which African Team has the Best Chance in Qatar?
There are five African teams going to Qatar this winter: Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon and Ghana.
The obvious choice for frontrunner for Africa would be the most recent African Cup of Nations winners Senegal, who with the likes of Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly and Eduoard Mendy, have a stacked enough team to do some real damage in Qatar.
However, Cameroon also produced a strong showing at AFCON, with players such as Karl Toko-Ekambi, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar forming a strong attack for the Indomitable Lions. On top of this, they also have the likes of Andre Onana and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa who ply their trades with Inter Milan and Napoli.