When it comes to football, Africa is a paradox in itself — it is home to the best talent the beautiful game has seen, as a good number of great players trace their roots to the cradle of life.
Yet African teams have never made it beyond the quarterfinals stage of the tournament. After having eluded them thus far, Qatar 2022 World Cup offers a chance to rewrite the history books.
When we mention African roots, you can bet the likes of Neymar, Antonio Rudiger, David Alaba, Bukayo Saka, Memphis Depay, and basically the whole France squad, and plenty of more talent comprise this equation of African talent by heritage.
And when you even consider those who are African by nationality; Achraf Hakimi, Sadio Mane, Mohammed Salah, Riyad Mahrez and Kalidou Koulibaly among plenty of others: one wonders how the continent has nothing much to show for all this great talent when it comes to the World Cup.
In the 1990 World Cup, Cameroon made it to the quarterfinals thereafter setting a benchmark that has not been defeated yet.
Senegal reached as far as the last eight in 2002 while Ghana did the same in 2010, but the continent’s achievement on the global stage has been underwhelming, to say the least.
Powered by Roger Milla’s impeccable ability, Cameroon were able to claim three wins at a World Cup, a first for an African country.
This superb performance from Cameroon in 1990 inspired the world enough to have Pele claim that an African team would win the World Cup by 2000.
But in 2002, Senegal staked claims for the big prize. Amid a hail of falling seeds early on, the team set out its stall by beating reigning champions France.
The Lions of Teranga became the first African team to go through a World Cup group stage undefeated.
In 2010, Ghana became the only team of six representatives to make it to the top after group stages in South Africa.
The Black Stars, combining the experience of their debut in 2006 with the promise of their 2009 under-20 World Cup winning team, played organised, disciplined football and, after wins over Serbia and the USA, came within a handball of a place in the semi-finals.
All the hope and promise disappeared after that.
This has become a huge problem for the African team to make it to the top in the World Cup due to economic disadvantage relative to European and South America.
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According to the World Population Review, going by gross national income per capita (as of 2020), nine of the 10 poorest countries in the world are in Africa.
This creates a snowball effect that affects the continent’s potential, restricting development, enabling corruption and impeding professionalism.
All five have appeared at football’s biggest event previously. Cameroon, Morocco and Senegal made it to the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year.