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The best African teams in FIFA World Cup history

Africa has always been a beacon of joy and festivity when the World Cup rolls around, we all saw how much fun the South Africa edition of the tournament was. As such, today we are going to take a look at this lively continent’s best country team performances in the biggest sports competition around the world.

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Fauzan Saari / Unsplash
Fauzan Saari / Unsplash

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  • Nigeria 1994

A Nigerian team led by Emmanuel Amuneke, who in a career of many injuries paired with a lot of frustrations, in the 1994 World Cup showed just how good and technically gifted the winger was. He scored against juggernaut Italy and Bulgaria while having been the main key piece in bringing the continental trophy back to Nigeria in that same year, this in tandem with other personal achievements gave us an unforgettable team.

Dutch native strategist Clemens Westerhof was the one at the helm for this squad, and currently still remains adored by the Nigerian fans. He took the responsibility to guide the nation’s Golden Generation of the ’90s and the world, at last, began to realize the country’s huge football culture. As well as bringing a squad of incredible talents, as he managed to win the AFCON title with the Super Eagles lineup.

Nigeria’s first game of the competition, actually their debut as well, was against Bulgaria at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. A Super Eagles lineup showing up with the likes of Finidi George, Rashidi Yekini and Daniel Amokachi absolutely demolished the Eastern Europeans 3-0 in a game that remains one of Africa’s best match performances at any World Cup edition.

  • Ghana 2010

Ghana’s Best World Cup Moment
Monirul Bhuiyan / AFP

Baby JetAsamoah Gyan was the highlight of a Ghanaian squad that had a midfield full of incredibly physical players. This midfield backline recovered the ball extremely fast while Gyan was there to receive the pass in a counterattack to finish the playoff.

Asamoah Gyan scored the extra-time clutch winner against the United States, another late goal against Serbia in the Black Stars’ first game of the tournament and a first-half equalizer against Australia to push them harder in the match.

Even after the infamous late miss, the penalty against Uruguay in the quarter-final, Gyan kept his cool to open the scoreline in the final shootout.

Serbian native Milovan Rajevac was one of a couple of Yugoslav managers to find a gold mine of talent through managing in Africa. He took over the Black Stars squad after August 2008 and led the team to the final of the 2010 AFCON tournament before going right into the World Cup.

After all the effort put in, Ghana’s World Cup performance in 2010 is sadly most remembered for Luis Suarez’s goal line handball save in the last minutes of the quarter-final match. The Uruguayan’s “save” stopped Ghana’s chances to advance into the semifinals of the competition.

  • Senegal 2002

Before El-Hadji Diouf became a negative figure in English football, he was a lightning-fast player attracting several top-flight teams for his services. The controversies and the doubts of temperament issues were still a thing for him, but people knew of the left winger because of his rapid pace and his incredible shot power, rather than his spitting and angry shouting on the pitch.

The late Bruno Metsu enjoyed his football career almost entirely in France. The summer of 2002 was his absolute moment of glory, after which he also won the Gulf Cup with the United Arab Emirates around 2007. He sadly passed away in October 2013 after a long battle with cancer.

The Teranga Lions’ opening win against France will always be remembered as one of the competition’s greatest upsets and one of the most iconic moments in World Cup history to date. The West Africans were first-timers in the event, while France was not only a European juggernaut but also the current defending world champions.

  • Cameroon 1990

Roger Milla made history by netting a goal at the 1994 World Cup at the age of 42, however, he also made massive contributions before that famous goal.

He scored 2 clutch extra-time goals against Colombia in the Round of 16 stages to grab Cameroon’s place in football history as Africa’s first-ever squad to reach the quarter-final stage.

Valeri Nepomniachi had a long time to prepare for his coaching career and decided to be the leader of this team. Although trophies in his homeland have eluded him for quite a while, the experienced boss has built a reputation for his tactics mainly in Turkey and China.

His best managerial achievement, however, still is that summer month in Italy with the Cameroon side.

Cameroon opened the 1990 World Cup with a tough battle against a talented Argentina side. In one of the tournament’s biggest shocks, the Lions held their own in their defensive half even after losing to players to red cards. The match was closed at 67 minutes when Francois Omam-Biyik jumped above the entire Argentinian defense to take a goal.

  • Algeria 1982

Rabah Madjer is one of North Africa’s best players of all time. The central striker was a European Cup winner with Porto back in 1987, while also scoring an equalizer in the final, thus taking the African Footballer of the Year trophy that same year. Both he and the talented Lakhdar Belloumi were at their peak going into the World Cup in Spain.

The Desert Foxes found their mojo thanks to their leadership. Mahieddine Khalef was at the helm during the Summer Olympics of 1980, afterwards, reinforcements came in the form of Rachid Mekhloufi, a national hero from the incredible FLN team of the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Sadly, Algeria was eliminated in the first round after collusion between Austria and West Germany. The two European neighbors, taking into account that a German victory by 1 or 2 goals would mean both teams go through, played for that specific scenario. Thus ending the chances of the Desert Foxes for the year.

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