It has been a highly disappointing World Cup season for African soccer fans thus far. The disappointment began when African favourites, South Africa, failed to qualify for the prestigious tournament. The dismay did not end there, as all 5 African teams failed to make it past the group stages.
This has, in fact, to be considered as the worst World Cup for African nations since 1982. Considering some of the best soccer players in the world hail from Africa, these results have come in as a shock. Let's check out the journeys of the five competing African nations in the World Cup below.
Egypt performed rather poorly, losing all hope to Uruguay, Russia, and Saudi Arabia before they left the tournament bagging only two goals in a total of three matches. Despite their lacklustre performance, it is notable that the Egyptian goalkeeper, E-Hadary, officially become the World Cup’s oldest player and did a fantastic job in saving a penalty from Fahad Al-Muwallad. If he had managed to do the same for Saudi Arabia’s Salman Al-Fara, Egypt might still have been in the running.
Morocco failed to win a single game during their time in Russia, although they managed to draw with Spain where the neighbouring nations both scored two goals in a terrifically exciting match. Unfortunately, Morocco only scored 1 point and did not do enough to see them through to round two. Many say that their loss was due to fierce competition and that Morocco simply didn't have a chance.
Nigeria’s captain, John Obi Mikel, learned about the kidnapping of his father only hours before Nigeria’s game against Argentina. This distressing information could be a reason for Nigeria not being on their best form and ultimately losing to Argentina. Nigeria also lost to Croatia but won against Iceland with a score of 2-0.
Tunisia put up a feisty performance during their time in Russia and succeeded to score five goals in total. In the game against Panama, Tunisia’s Ben Youssef celebrated his second-half equaliser being the 2,500th goal in the history of the tournament. Tunisia beat Panama 2-1, and even though this wasn’t enough to keep Tunisia in the game; it was the first time that Tunisia won a game at the FIFA World Cup in 40 years.
Senegal drew with Japan, thus giving the two nations the same amount of points after Senegal had beat Poland and later lost to Colombia. However, it was Senegal and not Japan that had to exit the tournament due to the yellow cards the team received. Senegal played excellently, especially considering that it was only their second World Cup. Senegal made the quarterfinals in previous tournaments, and to many, their premature departure this year was pitiful.
Although Africa faired rather dismally in the World Cup 2018, the silver lining is that in 2026, there will be nine African teams in the tournament as opposed to five due to expansion. We're eager to see if Africa can stick around for longer than expected in the years to come.