With barely a day to the kick-off of the 2018 World Cup, many football fans across Africa are optimistic that the continent’s five representatives would put up a good showing.
Tunisia, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, and Senegal will be carrying the weight of a football-mad continent that has been starved of success on the global stage.
The best performance from the continent’s representatives have been quarter-final showings in spite of sending representatives to the tournament since 1934 (Egypt was the first African side to do so in that year).
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Here, we look back at five memorable African World Cups since the tournament started in 1930:
Super Eagles Soar In USA ’94
Coming into the tournament on the back of a continental success at the African Nations Cup, Nigeria made their debut at the 1994 Fifa World Cup in the United States of America.
They were housed in Group D with Europeans, Greece and Bulgaria and South American heavyweights, Argentina.
The West Africans stunned both Bulgaria and the Greek 3-0 and 2-0 respectively but were edged out 2-1 in their second game of the competition by Argentina.
Heading into the second round tie, the African champions were paired against eventual finalist Italy. Emmanuel Amunike gave Nigeria the lead in the 26th minute of the clash.
The team held on till the 89th minute when a loss of concentration allowed Roberto Baggio level things up for the Azzurris.
Baggio finished off the Nigerians, just at extra-time, to end their fairytale in their debut outing at the competition.
Although the team got to the second round during the next edition of the competition, the US 1994 showing is still regarded as the nation’s best outing at the World Cup.
It was during this period that Nigeria was ranked the fifth best team in the World by FIFA.
Cameroon Stun Maradona
Before the 1990 edition of the World Cup, no African team had ever gotten beyond the second round.
Cameroon were in the same group with Argentina, Romania and defunct USSR. That was in Group B of the competition.
The Indomitable Lions sent shocking waves to the football world as they grabbed a 1-0 win over defending champions, Argentina in their first tie at the competition.
Inspired by the lethal Roger Milla, they later mauled the Romanians 2-0 before walloping USSR 4-0 to seal a place in the second round.
Cameroon went on to beat Colombia 2-1 in the round of 16 tie to become the first side from the continent to reach the quarter-final stage of the tournament.
However, the Central Africans were narrowly beaten 3-2 by the English side in what could have been a great tournament for them.
During the competition, Milla bagged four goals, sending shivers down the spine of football lovers with his enchanting and skillful showing, even when he had just come out of retirement.
Ghana Stars Dimed At Home
The Black Stars of Ghana got to their second World Cup outing in South Africa, 2010, the first time on African soil.
They had qualified for their first ever World Cup in 2006, losing out 3-0 to Brazil in the second round in Germany.
Playing in Group D of the competition, the West Africans did battle with Germany, Australia and Serbia.
Ghana beat Serbia 1-0 in their opening game before drawing 1-1 and losing 1-2 to Australia in their second and third games respectively.
They went on to send the USA packing in the second round of the tournament.
But Uruguay broke the hearts of Africans in a most dramatic fashion. Former Liverpool star Luis Suarez had blocked a goal-bound header in the dying moments of the encounter with the tie pegged at 1-1.
He was sent off with Asamoah Gyan hitting the woodwork to force the game to extra-time and a subsequent penalty shoot-out.
Africa’s dream of reaching the semi-final of the World Cup ended as the South Americans won 4-2 in the ensuing penalties.
Senegal Shock France
The Lions of Teranga, having lost the African Cup of Nations title to Cameroon, went into the 2002 World Cup as underdogs.
Been paired against France, the title holders, compounded matters for the West Africans who were making their debut at the competition.
However, Senegal sent a warning signal to the world; that they did not come to make up the numbers when a Papa Bouba Diop’s goal secured a surprising win over the Les Blues in the first game at the global soccer fiesta in Korea/Japan.
Draws with Uruguay and Denmark, 3-3 and 1-1, in that order, gave the Lions passage into the second round of the competition.
They were pegged with Sweden in the round of 16 but the Africans secured a 2-1 win to match Cameroon’s record at the Italia ’90 edition of the football show.
But the hopes of the continent were torn into shreds by Turkey who claimed victory over El-Hadji Diouf’s team, courtesy of the golden goal rule at the last eight of the event.
Algeria Shows Promise
And in Brazil 2014, the Fences of Algeria showed they were no pushovers when on the biggest stage.
The North Africans amassed four points from a Group H that included Belgium, South Korea, and Russia.
And in the second round, they forced eventual winners, Germany into extra-time, playing one of the finest games from Africa’s representatives in Brazil, before losing gallantly, 2-1.
Where Has Africa Got It Wrong?
Many football pundits believe that the continent’s teams to the competition are undone by internal crises.
In 2014, Nigerian players, for instance, refused to train prior to their 2-0 loss to France in the round of 16, due to bonus issues.
Such scenarios have played out almost all the time, across the continent whenever there are major competitions like the World Cup.
Again, others finger a lack of winning mentality as the stumbling block for the continent on the biggest global stage.
There seem to be no one-size-fits-all answer to Africa’s struggles at the competition but the question on the lips of success-starved football faithfuls from Rabat to Lagos is: “Will Africa finally break the jinx in Russia 2018?’
Interestingly, the answer will be revealed just in no time!