Five African teams have qualified for this winter’s World Cup. They’ll be hoping that there’s a difference in their fortunes as a whole this time around. No African team has ever advanced beyond the quarter final stage of the World Cup before. Cameroon made it that far in 1990, Senegal in 2002, and Ghana were the last African team to manage it, back in 2010.
All three of these previous African quarter-finalists – Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana – will be in Qatar and they will be joined by Tunisia and Morocco. Let’s take a closer look at each of these teams.
The defending African Cup of Nations (AFCON) champions will be expected to go the furthest among the African nations. With stars Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy making up the core of the team, the expectations are high. On Paridirect, they’re currently given odds of 81.00 to go on and win the World Cup, and that is a fairly accurate representation of their chances. The more logical market is the one that gives them odds of 5.00 to make it to the quarter-finals, which is a good appraisal of the fact that they are the best African team in this World Cup. Senegal were unfortunate to get knocked out of the competition in 2018 despite getting the same number of points in the group stage as Japan, but will feel fairly confident this time about getting out of their group which consists of hosts Qatar, Ecuador and the Netherlands. Senegal could well become everyone’s second team once this World Cup begins.
Ghana will be looking to their youth to produce some magic in the tournament this year. Experienced players like Jordan Ayew will need the likes of Kamaldeen Sulemana and Mohammed Kudus to show up big time in this tournament. The Black Stars didn’t make it to the last edition of the World Cup, and predictions don’t have them going too far this time either. Should they get into the knockouts, it will be a fairytale narrative of the most gripping quality.
They’ve been drawn with Uruguay, who famously knocked Ghana out through a Luis Suarez’s handball at the 2010 World Cup’s quarter-final. It is a moment that still grates on Ghana’s passionate supporters. Portugal and South Korea are the other teams in the group, which makes one thing clear – Ghana will have to cause at least one upset to have a chance of making it into the round of 16.
Tunisia are an aging side at the moment, and aren’t gifted with the household names that some of the other African teams possess. Wahbi Khazri and Youssef Msakni will be leading, with an exciting young talent in Manchester United’s Hannibal Mejbri likely to sit behind them or complement them out on the wings. While qualification has never seemed an issue for Tunisia, they haven’t been associated with too many great World Cup moments. It’s hard to imagine that that will change this time round. With defending champions France in their group it looks bleak for Tunisia this year. A strong Denmark outfit and Australia will also be difficult competition in the group stage.
Despite head coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s disputes with Noussair Mazraoui and Hakim Ziyech – the two biggest names in the squad – he has managed to get Morocco into another World Cup tournament. Mazraoui, now at Bayern Munich, has resolved the dispute and his addition in better spirits will be a big boost for the side. The in-form player for the moment is Achraf Hakimi of Paris Saint-Germain, and on the backs of these three players rest Morocco’s fortunes.
They blazed through the qualifiers, losing just one game, but should not expect similarly easy results in the group stage. Belgium – even though they are an aging side – and finalists of the last World Cup in Croatia. The other team in the group, Canada, is playing at the World Cup for the first time in 36 years. Anything that Morocco has planned will be irrelevant if they do not manage to get more than a point against Canada.
Cameroon aren’t the African superpower from over a decade ago with the likes of Samuel Eto’o leading the line. In fact, they haven’t won a match at the World Cup since 2002. Eto’o’s presence does linger, in a coaching role this time, but stronger teams than Cameroon have previously tried and failed at the World Cup.
Leading the line will be Vincent Aboubakar, the 30 year-old striker who was in excellent form at the AFCON, and he will play alongside club-football cult favorite Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. There are goals in this team based on that offensive line, and while they will be wary of the thrashing Brazil can hand to them, the presence of Serbia and Switzerland in the group will feel like a real opportunity to make it through to the knockout stages.
The popularity of football in Africa is undisputed but their showings in previous World Cup Tournaments have been disappointing. This year’s version of the tournament may prove to be different, but, as discussed in this article, it will require some truly incredible upsets to see success. It’s not an impossibility but it does seem very unlikely. Regardless of how things end up, African teams will only improve as time goes on. One day we will see an African team lift the cup.