Out of the 32 teams gunning for Glory at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, 5 of them will represent the Confederation Of African Football (CAF) region.
Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, and Tunisia will be flying the African flags this year with usual big names who have participated in the past few world cups like Cameroon, Ghana, and Ivory coast missing out.
African appearance at the world cup started in 1934 when Egypt featured at the 2nd edition hosted in Italy, the pharaohs crashed out in the first round than where the competition was in the knockout format, the North Africans, however, have since only managed to qualify twice for the Mundial.
The next time an African team would later feature at the world cup was 36 years later in Mexico 1970 where Morocco featured. It was until Spain 1982 before Africa got 2 slots at the world cup and it was so until 1994 before it was raised to 3 slots and then raised up to 5 at France 1998 which has been upheld since then.
This year, Salah, Mane, John Obi Mikel, Mehdi Benatia will be hoping to lead their teams beyond the Quarterfinals which have been beyond the reach of the 13 different African teams that have at one time or the other participated at the world cup.
With less than 3 days left to the opening match of this year’s world cup, Cheapgoals.com profiles the African representatives
Captain: John Mikel Obi
Best World Cup Finish: R16 (1994, 98, 2014)
Manager: Gernot Rohr
Debut: USA 1994
No of Appearances: 6th
The Super Eagles endured a tough group for qualification to the world cup after drawing Cameroon, Algeria, and Zambia in group B but they made an easy work of their group qualifying with a game to spare although the last match against Algeria a 1-1 draw was overturned to a 3-0 win for the Algerians after Nigeria fielded an ineligible player.
However, that didn’t overshadow their impressive results during the qualifiers against Cameroon in Uyo which ended in an emphatic 4-0 win and another 3-1 win against Algeria at the same venue.
The team will, however, face tougher tests at the world cup finals after been drawn in Group D alongside Europeans Croatia, Iceland and familiar foes in Argentina whom they will be facing for the 5th time in the history of the competition.
Ranked as the underdogs in the group, the Nigerians have been unimpressive in their recent friendlies approaching the world cup losing to the Czech Republic, England and Serbia while drawing DR Congo.
The recent uninspiring performances have led to lowered expectations from fans which were previously high after a brilliant display in the 4-2 defeat of Argentina in a friendly in November 2017 and a resilient 1-0 win over a Robert Lewandoski led Poland in March this year.
Possessing a squad with a mixture of youthful talents and experienced veterans led by the likes of Mikel, Victor Moses, Echiejile and Onazi, Alex Iwobi, Iheanach, Tyronne Ebuehi the Super Eagles, however, lack trusted hands between the post as inexperienced rookie Francis Uzoho looks likely to be the Number 1 for the Nigerians, a situation which many have touted to affect the chances of the 3-time African champions.
Vincent Enyeama’s retirement from the national team and Carl Ikeme’s battle with leukemia has left Gernot Rhor searching for a reliable goalkeeper starting with Daniel Akpeyi, Ikechukwu before settling for Deportivo’s handler Uzoho.
However, with the Super Eagles unpredictable nature of rising to the occasion when least expected, one can expect the round of 16 finish from the West Africans.
JUNE 6: CROATIA – NIGERIA
JUNE 22: NIGERIA – ICELAND
JUNE 26: NIGERIA – ARGENTINA
WORLD CUP SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba), Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United).
Defenders: Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor), Tyronne Ebuehi (Den Haag), Elderson Echiejile (Brugge), Bryan Idowu (Amkar Perm), Chidozie Awaziem (Nantes), William Ekong (Bursaspor), Leon Balogun (Brighton), Kenneth Omeruo (Kasimpasa).
Midfielders: John Obi Mikel (Tianjin TEDA), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Oghenekaro Etebo (Las Palmas), John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva), Joel Obi (Torino).
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Leicester), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone)
Captain: essam El Hadary
Best World Cup Finish: Group stage (1934, 1990)
Manager: Hector Cuper
Debut: Italia 1934
No of Appearances: 3rd
Despite being the record winners of the African Cup of Nations with 7 trophies to their cabinet, 2 runners-up medal and three 3rd place finishes, the Pharaohs have never passed the group stages in the last 2 appearances at the world cup. More surprising is the fact that during their six-year dominance on the African scene winning the AFCON from 2006 till 2010 they failed to appear on the world scene in Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.
Furthermore, both appearances at the world cup had a reasonably long period of absence in between them but after 28 years of missing out of the global fiesta Mohammed Salah rose up to be the savior, top scoring for Egypt with five goals during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification, including both goals in the decisive 2–1 victory over Congo, one of which was a penalty in the last minute to make the Pharaohs reach their first World Cup finals since 1990.
Although their recent friendly results have been poor with loses to Belgium, Portugal and Greece including draws with Kuwait and Colombia, Mohammed Salah’s recent fitness report should boost the Morales of the team and fans alike. The Liverpool forward was feared to possibly miss out of the world cup having being injured in the UEFA champions league final against Real Madrid in May.
With the new generation of talents coming from the North Africans led by legendary goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, Liverpool forward Mohammed Salah, West Brom’s Ahmed Hegazy, Arsenal’s Mohammed Elneny, the future looks bright and a round of 16 appearance looks possible after being grouped alongside the hosts Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia in Group.
JUNE 15: EGYPT – URUGUAY
JUNE 19: RUSSIA – EGYPT
JUNE 25: SAUDI ARABIA – EGYPT
WORLD CUP SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun), Mohamed El-Shennawy (Al Ahly), Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly)
Defenders: [/b]Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Saad Samir (Al Ahly), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Mohamed Abdel-Shafy (Al Fateh), Ahmed Hegazi (West Brom), Ali Gabr (Zamalek), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles FC);[b]Midfielders: [/b]Tarek Hamed, (Zamalek), Shikabala (Zamalek), Abdallah Said (Al Ahli), Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Mahmoud Kahraba (Al Ittihad), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Mahmoud Hassan (Kasimpasa), Amr Warda (Atromitos Athens) [b]Forwards: Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Captain: Cheikhou Kouyaté
Best World Cup Finish: Quarterfinal (2002)
Manager: Aliou Cissé
Debut: Korea/Japan 2002
No of Appearances: 2nd
Senegal are one of the three African teams to go unbeaten during the qualifiers (others being Egypt & Nigeria) and that’s not to say their journey to the finals was devoid of drama.
A 2-1 defeat to the South Africans in their second game was later annulled when the referee was found to have manipulated the match by awarding a penalty for a non-existent handball.
Aliou Cisse’s team then drew their next two games with Burkino Faso before getting back on track with a 2-0 win in Cape Verde. Qualification was secured with a 2-0 victory in the rescheduled match with South Africa in Polokwane.
The Teranga Lions of Senegal will be appearing at their 2nd world cup after their debut in 16 years ago where they handed a shock defeat to the champion, France at the group stage before going further to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Led by the likes of Saido Mane, Keita Balde, Senegal finished atop their qualification group which had Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and South Africa and they will hope to replicate the records of the legendary team of 2002 which had current team coach Aliou Cisse, El Hadji Diouf, Papa Diop and co which went all the way to the last 8th of the competition.
Their warm-up matches to the world cup have not been impressive either drawing against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg, and Uzbekistan while losing to Croatia before posting a morale-boosting 2-0 win against South Korea in their last warm-up game. They will face Poland, Japan and Colombia in Russia
June 19: POLAND vs SENEGAL
June 24: JAPAN vs SENEGAL
June 28: SENEGAL vs COLOMBIA
WORLD CUP SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya AC), Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes), Alfred Gomis (Torino)
Defenders: Kara Mbodji (Anderlecht), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Moussa Wague (Eupen), Saliou Ciss (Angers), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux), Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor), Armand Traore (Nottingham Forest), Salif Sane (Hannover 96)
Midfielders: Pape Alioune Ndiaye (Stoke), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham), Cheikh N’Doye (Birmingham)
Forwards: Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Diao Balde Keita (Monaco), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes), Diafra Sakho (Rennes), Moussa Konate (Amiens), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke), Mbaye Niang (AC Milan).
Captain: Mehdi Benatia
Best World Cup Finish: R16 1986
Manager: Herve Renard
Debut: Mexico 1970
No of Appearances: 5th
The Atlas Lions are Africa’s most in-form team ahead of the World Cup having gone 10 games unbeaten (winning 8 and drawing 2) in all competitions since their 1-0 loss to Cameroon in the 2019 AFCON qualifier played in June 2017.
More impressive is their qualification record where they got 4points each from their group opponents which consisted of Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Mali scoring 11 goals and conceding none, going undefeated throughout the qualifiers. Their form was translated to their home-based team who went on to win the 2018 Championship of African Nations (CHAN) on home soil defeating Nigeria 4-0 in the final.
Ayoub Elkaabi who was the top scorer in that competition earned a call-up from the national team which also includes Hakim Ziyech, Nordi Amrabaat and Achraf Hakimi by coach Herve Renard to the main team for the world cup; their first since France 1998. They may have defeated Slovakia, Uzbekistan, Serbia, and Estonia drew Ukraine in their warm-up games however, they face a mission impossible to qualify from Group B at the world cup where they are grouped alongside 2010 champions Spain, European champions Portugal and Iran.
June 15: MOROCCO vs IR IRAN
June 20: PORTUGAL vs MOROCCO
June 25: SPAIN vs MOROCCO
WORLD CUP SQUAD
Goalkeepers: [/b]Mounir Mohamedi (Numancia), Yassine Bounou (Girona), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger)[b]Defenders: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (Lille)
Midfielders: Mbark Boussoufa (Al Jazira), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Faycal Fajr (Getafe), Amine Harit (Schalke)
Forwards: Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor), Aziz Bouhaddouz (St. Pauli), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Mehdi Carcela (Standard Liege), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Youssef En Nesyri (Malaga)
Captain: Aymen Mathlouthi
Best World Cup Finish: Group stage
Manager: Nabil Maaloul
No of Appearances: 5th
Russia 2018 is the fifth appearance for the Carthage Eagles at the world cup, despite their decent appearance record at the world cup the Carthage Eagles have failed to make any meaningful impact yet at the world cup, going out of the group stages on each occasion.
The North Africans had a relatively easy group during qualification after they were drawn with DR Congo, Libya, and Guinea. 6games 4wins and 2draws and an abysmal scoring record of 11goals in 6 matches were all they needed to for their first world cup in 12 years
Their top scorer Youssef Msakni has been ruled out with injury and it is left to see where Tunisians will draw their goalscoring inspirations from. Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri could be an alternative for set pieces but it is left to see what impact he will make against the likes of England, Belgium, and Panama in Group G.
However, they have posted impressive performances in recent friendlies, losing 1-0 to Spain, drawing 2-2 against Turkey and Portugal and posting 1-0 wins against Iran and Costa Rica.
JUNE 18: TUNISIA – ENGLAND
JUNE 23: BELGIUM – TUNISIA
JUNE 28: PANAMA – TUNISIA
WORLD CUP SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab), Moez Hassen (Chateauroux), Aymen Mathlouthi (Al Baten)
Defenders: Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa), Dylan Bronn (Gent), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly), Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien), Hamdi Nagguez (Zamalek)
Midfielders: Anice Badri (Esperance), Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (Al Ahli Riyadh), Ghaylene Chaalali (Esperance), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Saifeddine Khaoui (Troyes), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nasr), Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier), Naim Sliti (Dijon), Bassem Srarfi (Nice)
Forwards: Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al Ittifaq), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain), Wahbi Khazri (Sunderland)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
1 – The only time Africa have hosted the world cup, in 2010 when South Africa had the honors. They could be joined by Morocco should the North Africans be awarded the rights on Wednesday 13th of to 2018 to host the 2026 world ahead of a joint bid from USA/Canada/Mexico.
2 – No African team has appeared at the quarter-final stage of the world cup on 2 different occasions, neither has any 2 African teams made the quarterfinals in one single world cup edition.
3- In fact since 1934 that Egypt made Africa’s bow at the world cup and despite 12 more teams following suit much later, only 3 teams from Africa have made the quarterfinals; Cameroon in Italia 1990, Senegal in Korea/Japan 2002 and Ghana in South Africa 2010
13- The number of African teams that have appeared at the world cup. The list is topped by Cameroon (7), Nigeria (6), Morocco & Tunisia (5), Algeria (4), Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa & Egypt (3), Senegal (2), Zaire, Angola & Togo (1)
19- is the age that makes Nigerian Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho the youngest goalkeeper to ever appear at the world cup. Nigeria’s team is the youngest team in this year’s tournament with an average age of just 25 years old.
45- the age that makes Egyptian legendary goalkeeper, Essam El Hadary the oldest goalkeeper and player to appear at the world cup eclipsing Colombia’s second choice goalkeeper to Brazil 2014 Faryd Mondragon’s record of 43 years old during the last World Cup.