Africa in the FIFA World Cup: Part 6 - The noughties and beyond...

 by Martin Belam, 7 December 2009

Last week the World Cup draw in Cape Town revealed the fate of the 32 nations appearing in next year's finals, including the six African nations taking part. This is a record number of teams from the continent appearing. It took many years for the African confederation to get a number of spots at the World Cup finals that they could be happy with, and last week, leading up to the draw, I looked at the history of African teams featuring in the tournament from 1934, through the wilderness years of the fifties and sixties, through the seventies, eighties and nineties.

Africa in the FIFA World Cup: Japan and South Korea 2002

2002 World Cup mascots

Cameroon, Tunisia, South Africa and Nigeria were familiar African nations by the 2002 tournament, but Senegal were the surprise package. As Cameroon had done in Italia 90 against Argentina, Senegal secured a shock victory over the reigning World Champions in the opening game. Bouba Diop's single goal gave the Senegalese, making their first appearance in the finals, the win over France. A draw with Denmark and victory over Uruguay saw them progress from Group A. They were the only African nation to progress beyond the group stages.

In the second round, Senegal faced European opposition in the shape of Sweden. Senegal again emulated Cameroon's 1990 achievements with a 2-1 victory in extra-time, making them the second ever African team to reach the quarter-finals. Turkey awaited them, and after a 0-0 draw in regulation time, İlhan Mansız's golden goal put the Turks through to the last four.

Africa in the FIFA World Cup: Germany 2006

Ticket for Togo-Switzerland Ticket

2006 represented something of a changing of the guard for African football. Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Angola all appeared for the first time - ending a series of consecutive qualifications by Cameroon, Nigeria, Tunisia and South Africa. Tunisia were the only 'established' African World Cup nation to feature. I actually went to one of Togo's games, against Switzerland, in Dortmund

Togo flag flying in Dortmund

Togo and Switzerland line-ups

It was Ghana who were the only team to progress to the second round. They qualified from a group featuring Italy, Czech Republic and the USA, and then faced Brazil in the second round. A 3-0 defeat sent the African's home.

The Ivory Coast were unlucky to find themselves in a group with Argentina, the Netherlands and Serbia & Montenegro, and despite playing some great attacking football, they were eliminated after successive 2-1 defeats against Argentina and the Netherlands.

Africa in the FIFA World Cup: South Africa 2010

2010 World Cup Poster

The draw for the 2010 World Cup has thrown up some very mixed fortunes for African sides. Going into it, South Africa were the lowest ranked team, and a draw of Mexico, Uruguay and France does not bode well for their chances of progressing. Ghana and the Ivory Coast will also feel that again they have been handed a tough draw.

2010 draw group D

Cameroon and Nigeria have been drawn in fairly balanced groups, whilst Algeria may feel they have the best chance of all the African to progress. If they can secure a win against Slovenia in their opening game, then any kind of positive results against England or the USA may be enough to carry them through.

2010 World Cup draw ceremony

Africa in the FIFA World Cup: Records

Starting with Egypt versus Hungary in 1934, African teams have played 90 matches in World Cup Finals, and they've won 32 of them. Cameroon in the 1990 quarter-finals against England, and Senegal in the 2002 quarter-finals against Turkey are the furthest African teams have gone in the tournament. Nigeria and Cameroon are the African teams with the best records, winning 4 games each. Togo and Zaire have the worst records, losing every game in their single appearance at the finals.

  Country Appearances Best performance Record
Pld W D L F A
Cameroon Cameroon 1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 Quarter finals (1990) 17 4 7 6 15 29
Senegal Senegal 2002 Quarter finals (2002) 5 2 2 1 7 6
Nigeria Nigeria 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 Second round (1994, 1998) 11 4 1 6 14 17
Morocco Morocco 1970, 1986, 1994, 1998 Second round (1986) 13 2 4 7 13 18
Ghana Ghana 2006, 2010 Second round (2006) 4 2 0 1 4 6
Tunisia Tunisia 1978, 1998, 2002, 2006 First round (1978, 1998, 2002, 2006) 12 1 4 7 8 17
Algeria Algeria 1982, 1986, 2010 First round (1982, 1986) 6 2 1 3 6 10
South Africa South Africa 1998, 2002, 2010 First round (1998, 2002) 6 1 3 2 8 11
Egypt Egypt 1934, 1990 First round (1934, 1990) 4 0 2 2 3 5
Ivory Coast Ivory Coast 2006, 2010 First round (2006) 3 1 0 2 5 6
Angola Angola 2006 First round (2006) 3 0 2 1 1 2
Togo Togo 2006 First round (2006) 3 0 0 3 1 6
Democratic Republic of Congo Zaire (now DR Congo) 1974 First round (1974) 3 0 0 3 0 14

And finally...

I hope you've enjoyed this dip into World Cup history. However the African nations perform in 2010, the fact that the tournament is being held on the continent for the first time goes some way to redressing the qualifying procedures, which, between 1938 and 1966, prevented a single African team reaching the finals. I can't wait to see how the tournament unfolds...


I am pretty sure this year we would see another African surprise! I was quite pleased when Senegal reached the quarter finals!

I hope we see this year something similar with another underdog!

And now I think I can name that African surprise! Algeria!

After winning over Ivory Coast today, in such a spectacular way, I think they have a good chance to get out of the England, USA, Slovenia group.

However, my relatives live in SA and they say June-July is winter in SA? Wouldn't it be way too cold ?

Keep up to date on my new blog