FEATURE: African World Cup Moments – Episode Four
Ahead of the biggest footballing event on the planet – the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia – KingFut presents the fourth installment of African World Cup Moments, a series that highlights 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.
France 1998: five African teams for the first time
Following an epic World Cup debut by Nigeria in 1994, topping their group against Argentina, Bulgaria and Greece, FIFA decided to increase the number of African participants from 3 to 5 as this was the third successive World Cup where an African team progressed beyond the first stage.
As the number of teams taking part of the 1998 World Cup increased from 24 to 32, it meant only two teams from each group would qualify with no best-ranked third-placed teams, leaving a longer road for African teams.
Tunisia, Cameroon and South Africa all failed to grab a win in the group stage. Morocco had a top campaign, and if it wasn’t for what was believed to be a conspiracy from Brazil and Norway they would have easily reached the second round.
However one team stood tall in their group, beating Hristo Stoichkov’s Bulgaria and Raul Gonzalez’s Spain; the Super Eagles that went soaring and topped their group for a second World Cup in row, raising the African flag up high.
France 1998: Marcel Desailly and Patrick Vieira first African-born World Cup winners
Although they did not represent the country of their origin for different reasons, Marcel Desailly and Patrick Vieira became the first two African-born players to lift he most prestigious trophy in the football world.
Desailly left Ghana when he was only four years old and played in Nantes’ youth sector in France, and when he was later asked about choosing to represent the Blues, he said: “In 1986 when I was 18, France was the obvious one in front of me and Ghana was not organized enough for me to think of becoming Ghanaian as a football player.”
Things seem to have changed now as for a number of times Desailly has been tipped to coach Ghana especially after their poor displays in the World Cup qualifiers.
On the other hand, Vieira loves his country and believes the only reason he never played for Senegal is because no one from the national team approached him.
“This is where I was born, this is where my parents were born, this is where my grandparents were born, so that’s why every time I come back to Senegal, to Dakar, it’s very emotional.
“I didn’t have anybody from the Senegalese national team who came to me and proposed for me to play in the national team so the question was never there,” he recalled.
Korea/Japan 2002: Senegal beating France
From the very start, it was clear that Senegal were up for something extraordinary heading to the World Cup.
In the qualifiers, the Lions of Teranga demolished three African giants, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria, conceding only two goals and one loss on their road to the World Cup.
Their debut in the competition was up against the defending champions France, and to the shock of everyone, Senegal hit the ground running in their tie as a slaloming run from El Hadji Diouf brought Frank Leboeuf to the ground, and his pinpoint cross connected with Papa Bouba Diop who fired the nation’s first ever goal in a World Cup and one that granted them their first victory.
Senegal qualified from the group along with Denmark and in the round of 16, Henri Camara’s golden goal made them the second African country to make it to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Germany 2006: Togo, Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast all debut
In 1982, two African teams debuted in the World Cup at the same year, to much fanfare. However, what happened in 2006 was completely astonishing, as four African teams made their debut in the biggest football competition.
Led by Emmanuel Adebayor, Togo finished ahead of Senegal in the qualifiers, losing only 1 of their 10 fixtures. Angola were level with Nigeria on points but their head to head games gave Angola the advantage.
Giants Ghana and Ivory Coast finally made their breakthrough after years of disappointment as Michael Essien and his teammates crushed DR Congo and South Africa, while Didier Drogba had to thank Egypt for a late draw with Cameroon to give his side the chance to live the struggling nation’s long lost dream.
Although Togo and Angola didn’t live up to the expectations, Ivory Coast destroyed Serbia and Montenegro, but were unlucky to lose 2-1 against both Argentina and Netherlands in the ‘group of death’.
On the other hand, Ghana raised Africa’s flag up high when they qualified to the round 16 after cruising past the United States of America and Czech Republic in the group.
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