African teams, who qualify for the World Cup, tend to be looked down upon due to the odds stacked against them. To say they’re inferior is ridiculously untrue. There have been times where African teams have stunned the world and showed they are more than capable of playing at a high level.
Let’s take a look at some the success of African teams in the last 30 years…
Morocco, 1986 World Cup in Mexico: Morocco was in their first World Cup in 16 years at the time. They were drawn into Group F alongside England, Poland, and Portugal. Morocco topped the group, defeating Portugal and drawing with England and Poland, thus becoming the first African team to make it past the group stage. In the Round of 16, they took on West Germany, narrowly losing 1-0. Morocco’s goalkeeper made a number of spectacular saves, keeping the Moroccans in the game. West Germany’s game-winning goal came in the 88th minute, ending a short, but respectable run.
Cameroon, 1990 World Cup in Italy: They were drawn into Group B along with Argentina, Romania, and the Soviet Union. Cameroon started off by pulling off a massive upset, defeating the defending champions in Argentina 1-0. They, then, defeated Romania 2-1, securing their spot in the knockout stage. In the Round of 16, Cameroon defeated Colombia 2-1, thus advancing to the quarterfinals against England.
This African team came within seven minutes to winning until a penalty allowed England to tie and eventually win 3-2 in extra time. They were the first African nation to make it to the quarterfinals. Roger Milla played a big part in Cameroon’s magnificent run as the 38-year-old striker came out of retirement shortly before the tournament per request of Paul Biya, the President of Cameroon. He scored four goals in the tournament, including two against Colombia.
Nigeria, 1994 World Cup in the United States: This was Nigeria’s first appearance in the tournament. They were drawn into Group D alongside Argentina, Greece, and Bulgaria. Nigeria started with a brilliant 3-0 win against Bulgaria followed by a duel with Argentina that resulted in a losing effort. Nigeria was able to advance to the knockout stage with a 2-0 win against Greece. They faced Italy and were closing in on the win until Italy’s Roberto Baggio equalized, forcing the game into extra time where Italy prevailed. While Nigeria’s run ended in heartbreak, they still had a very good tournament for a team that participated for the first time.
Senegal, 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan: Senegal’s first appearance in a World Cup tournament had them drawn into Group A alongside France, Denmark, and Uruguay. They started off in a similar way to Cameroon’s 1990 run as they defeated the defending champions, France, 1-0. Senegal’s next two games resulted in draws, but it was enough for them to finish second in the group and advance to the knockouts.
In the Round of 16, they defeated Sweden 2-1 in extra time courtesy of a golden goal by Henri Camara, thus becoming the second African team to reach the quarterfinals where they lost to Turkey in extra time. Upon the team’s return to Senegal, they were given a warm welcome and declared heroes.
Ghana, 2010 World Cup in South Africa: Ghana came into this tournament with the youngest in the tournament. They were pitted in Group D against the likes of Germany, Serbia, and Australia. Ghana finished second in this bunch with one win (against Serbia), one draw (against Australia), and one loss (against Germany).
In the Round 16, Ghana squared off against the United States where they emerged victorious 2-1, courtesy of a goal scored by Asamoah Gyan in extra time. They became the third African team to advance to the quarterfinals. Next, they took on Uruguay and were looking to become the first African team to go to the semifinals. After regulation, the game was tied 1-1, forcing extra time. Ghana was awarded a penalty kick deep into extra time after Uruguay’s Luis Suarez used his hand to prevent what would have been Ghana’s game-winning goal, however, the penalty was missed. This led to a penalty shoot-out which saw Uruguay emerge victorious, thus ending Ghana’s brilliant run.