FEATURE: African World Cup Moments – Episode One
A month before the start of the biggest footballing event on the planet – the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia – KingFut presents the first installment of African World Cup Moments, a series that will highlight the most iconic moments in the history of African nations’ participation in the global showpiece tournament.
Despite the fact that none of the continent’s sides have managed to make it to the semi-final stage, throughout history, there have been some outstanding highs and devastating lows for African teams at the FIFA World Cup.
Italy 1934: Egypt become first African team to qualify
The 1934 World Cup, hosted by Italy, marked the first appearance for any African nation; African football pioneers Egypt. The Pharaohs, coached by former Manchester United player James McRead, made it to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics semifinals, and also qualified to the World Cup after defeating Mandatory Palestine. An 11-2 aggregate win booked their tickets to Naples, as they became the first African nation to feature in a World Cup.
The 1934 World Cup was based on a knockout format between the 16 participating teams. Egypt were drawn to face Hungary in their first (and sadly, only) match in the tournament. Hungary managed to take a two-goal lead courtesy of Pál Teleki and Géza Toldi. However, Egypt reacted quickly and managed to draw level, all in the first half. Abdel-Rahman Fawzi became the first African to score at the World Cup with his goal on the half hour mark, before extending the record with a 39th minute equalizer to leave it 2-2 before the break.
In the second half, Fawzi was denied a historic hat-trick when the referee dubiously cancelled his goal for offside. The Hungarians then grabbed their third goal in the 53rd minute through Jenö Vincze, before they put the game beyond Egypt when Géza Toldi scored goal number four seven minutes later.
The match ended Egypt’s dreams of going through the quarterfinals and the Pharaohs would go on to wait 54 years before qualifying to their second World Cup in 1990, also in Italy.
England 1966: African teams boycott the world cup
Photo of Ghana’s Osei Kofi – caption: “Ghanaian foward Osei Kofi, known as the ‘Wizard Dribbler’, was one of many illustrious African players to miss out on the World Cup.”
The 1966 World Cup is known for Booby Moore lifting the trophy to mark England’s only ever win of the tournament; yet, it only marks one of the events that will forever remain in the history of the tournament, which is the whole African continent’s boycott.
African teams withdrew from the competition in protest of FIFA’s discriminatory decisions to give the most qualification spots to European and American teams. In fact, out of the 16 teams in the World Cup, Europe included ten, Latin America had four and Central America had one, leaving only one spot for Africa, Asia and Oceania to compete for.
The African boycott forced the FIFA committee to give Africa its own slot two years after the controversial finals. It was a groundbreaking moment that not only caused a major effect in the development of African involvement in worldwide football, but also caused major changes in the FIFA’s Eurocentric rules and regulations.
England 1966: Eusebio top scorer in 1966 World Cup
Nicknamed the Black Panther, Eusebio is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, scoring 733 goals in 745 matches throughout his career. He was born in Mozambique, a Portuguese colony at the time, and made his debut for the Portuguese national team in 1961 against Luxembourg, when he managed to score his first international goal.
The 1966 World Cup marks one of Eusebio’s greatest moments; he finished as the tournament’s top scorer after finding the net 9 times, leading his country to win the third place and receiving the bronze ball award. Portugal were placed in Group 3 along with title holders at the time, Brazil, Hungary and Bulgaria. Eusebio managed to score a goal against Bulgaria in the second match and two vital goals against Brazil in the final group stage clash, which led to the elimination Pele’s team from the World Cup.
In the quarter-finals, Eusebio managed to find the net four consecutive times to help his side seal a 5-3 comeback win sending them to face hosts, England, in the semi-finals. Eusebio was closely marked by England’s defender Nobby Stiles, but still managed to score Portugal’s only goal in the game from a penalty in the 82nd minute. It was too little too late for the Portuguese, however, as they were downed by a Bobby Charlton brace.
Eusebio added another goal to his tally during the third-place match against the Soviet Union, when he opened the scoring in a match that ended with a 2-1 victory for his countrymen. The Black Panther was awarded the Golden Boot award and his performance highlights Portugal’s best-ever performance at a World Cup.
England 1966: Ali Kandil becomes first African World Cup referee
Also in 1996, Ali Kandil became the first African referee to officiate a match in a World Cup. He was in charge of the 1966 World Cup Group 4 encounter between North Korea and Chile, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Kandil also represented Egypt in the 1970 World Cup, held in Mexico, when he directed the Group 1 match between Mexico and El Salvador. Just before halftime, it was not clear whether Kandil has signaled for a throw in for El Salvador, or a foul for Mexico. Mexican players quickly resumed the game and managed to score a goal, while the Salvadoran players watched on in confusion.
El Salvador players protested by refusing to resume the match, continually kicking the ball away from the center spot, which led Kandil to call for half-time. The match eventually resumed and the Mexicans managed to add three other goals in the second half, to seal a 4-0 win.
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