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FEATURE: African World Cup Moments – Episode Three

African World Cup moments

Photo: Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images for Golden Foot

Two weeks before the start of the biggest footballing event on the planet – the 2018 in Russia – KingFut presents the third 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.

Mexico 1986: Morocco become first African team to progress past group stage

African World Cup Moments

Photo: Bongarts/Getty Images

Morocco’s 1986 World Cup campaign has to go down one of the best in African football history; after beating Egypt and Libya (2-0 and 3-0 respectively) in the qualification rounds, the Lions of the Atlas were drawn against Poland, England and Portugal in group F with very little expectations of even snatching a point against legends like Gary Lineker, Glenn Hoddle, Bryan Robson and Zbigniew Boniek.

Surprisingly, Morocco went on an excellent run of form led by their legendary keeper and capitain Badou Zakki, Aziz Bouderbala and Mohamed Al Taimoumi and was able to go against all odds to finish top of their group after two goalless draws against Poland and England in addition to a historic 3-1 win against Portugal, as Abdel Razak Khairi was able to score twice past Portugal in the first half which left them stunned at the break.

But the Lions of Atlas weren’t finished yet, as Abdel Karim Krimau added the third right around the hour mark. Portugal tried to get back to the game through the remainder of the second half but were only rewarded with a goal from Diamantino in the 80th minute. And by that win, Morocco had created history by becoming the first African country to reach the World Cup knockout stages, but not just that, they did it as group winners.

Unfortunately, becoming group leaders wasn’t in their favor at all as some expected, and that’s because Morocco’s golden generation had to go head to head with an iconic Germany team which included Rudi Voller, Lothar Matthaeus, and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge who were able to win the game by a goal to nil after Matthaeus fired a low free kick past Zaki in the 88th minute to send Morocco home after an incredible World Cup campaign.

Italy 1990: Cameron become first African representatives in quarter-finals

African World Cup Moments

Photo: Bongarts/Getty Images

Cameron took ITALIA ’90 by storm, as they clinched an opening game win against Diego Maradona’s Argentina by a header from Omam Biyik in the 67th minute. They then went on to lead their group following a 2-1 win against Gheorghe Hagi’s Romania (which witnessed Milla coming in as a substitute in the second half to score twice and do his trade mark corner flag dance), and a 4-0 loss against the Soviet Union.

The Indomitable Lions then sealed a remarkable 2-1 win in the round of sixteen against a strong Colombia side, which included players like Rene Higuita and Carlos Valderrama, after two extra time goals from Roger Milla, making them the first African team to reach the last eight. Unfortunately, Milla’s countrymen were knocked out of the tournament by England in a 3-2 defeat after extra time.

Italy 1990: Egypt and the back pass rule

African World Cup Moments

Photo: Allsport UK /Allsport

Egypt’s game vs Ireland in Italy’s 1990 World Cup will always be remembered as one of the strangest, most tedious games of this version of the tournament. However, no one can deny its huge impact on the beautiful game’s future. Egypt were drawn in Group F alongside England, Holland and Ireland in their second qualification for the World Cup finals, The Pharaohs’ campaign wasn’t very entertaining to say the least, as they drew 0-0 against Ireland, drew 1-1 against Holland (by the infamous Magdi Abdel-Ghani penalty), and lost against England 1-0.

However, it’s the Pharaohs’ game against Ireland that will be forever remembered as the one that reshaped a huge part of the game’s structure to what it is in the modern day. And by that I mean the initiation of the back pass rule. The back pass is simply when a player deliberately passes the ball to his goalkeeper and then the keeper catches it, holds on to it for as long as he wanted and then releasing it back into play. This is completely against what the rules permit today, as when a player passes a ball to the keeper, he is not allowed to catch it with his hands but should play the ball with his feet instead.

And the reason why it was prohibited is that goalkeepers Ahmed Shobeir and the Irish goalie Packie Bonner had abused their rights to do so throughout the game, the Irish goalie then took it even farther and held the ball for almost 6 minutes without releasing it, for the game to end in a boring goalless draw.

USA 1994: Nigeria’s golden generation

African World Cup Moments

Photo: Beate Mueller/Bongarts/Getty Images

Just before the 1994 World Cup, Nigeria had won their second Africa Cup of Nations, their striker Rashidi Yekini was named the player of the tournament as well as top scorer and their Dutch coach, Clemens Westerhof, had implemented an impressive 4-4-2 flat formation that dominated Africa and sent Nigeria to their first World Cup participation.

Nigeria’s opening game of the tournament which was also their debut in the World Cup, showed exactly what this team Clemens Westerhof had put together can do under pressure. The Super Eagles came up against Bulgaria with an impressive side and were able to thrash the Bulgarians 3-0 after iconic individual performances by Finidi George and Rashidi Yekini.

The Super Eagles then took on a superb Argentina side which players like Maradona, Simeone and Batistuta in their second World Cup next game and lost 2-1 by a brace from Caludio Caniggia. And in their third and final group stage game against Greece, the Super Eagles were able to secure a 2-0 victory as well as their group’s leadership by a total of 6 points.

Nigeria then had to face Italy in the round of 16 who had one of the best teams of the tournament which included Roberto Baggio, Zola, Maldini, Albertini, Antonio Conte and Franco Baresi with the legendary Arrigo Sacchi on the touchline. Emmanuel Amunike gave the lead to the Super Eagles in the opening 25 minutes of the game and went on to maintain their lead till the 88th and were just two minutes away from snatching a historic win against a 10-man Italy team, until Roberto Baggio scored the equalizer and took it back to the starting point in extra time.

Baggio then scored his second of the night in the 105th minute and by that ended the Nigerian dream of becoming the second African team after Cameroon to qualify to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Italy then went on to lose the final against Brazil on penalties, in one of the most heartbreaking moments for any Italian football fan; Baggio missed from the spot to gift the trophy to Brazil.

Reporter at KingFut and a Broadcast Journalism senior at Misr International University.

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