In accordance with FIFA’s structural rules, there were five representatives from Africa at the 2018 World Cup. After a qualification process, Senegal, Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt, and Tunisia were the teams that made it to the showpiece event in Russia.
If you take a look at the data about the top 16 teams of the tournament, one of the first things you will notice is the lack of an African team. That’s right, not a single African team made it to the knockout stage of the tournament.
We found an infographic at Bettingsites.me.uk that clearly shows the African countries underperformed on so many levels. So, what exactly went wrong for each of them?
Before the tournament began, Senegal was seen by many as Africa’s best hope in Russia. Aliou Cisse and his boys began the tournament with a head-turning victory against Poland, with star players Kalidou Koulibaly and Sadio Mane putting in starring performances.
The next game saw a 2-2 draw against Japan. Although it was a thrilling game, having been ahead twice, Aliou Cisse believed his team should have won the game.
The final game against Colombia saw Senegal exit the competition in the meanest of circumstances, as it was relegated because of the FIFA’s newly established fair play regulations.
Senegal received two yellow cards more than Japan and with similar points and goal difference, it was the African team who left the tournament.
Morocco’s early exit attracted a lot less attention than that of the other African teams, largely due to the fact that it ended up in a group with giants such as Portugal and Spain.
The team actually gave a decent account of itself, with the late defeat to Iran being the biggest negative. It may have lost to Portugal, but the team outplayed the opponent for large portions of the encounter, with an early Cristiano Ronaldo goal ultimately downing them.
Morocco again impressed against Spain, coming within seconds of victory before the stoppage-time goal condemned them to elimination. Throughout the tournament, Morocco wasted numerous scoring chances and failed to score a win.
The less we talk about Tunisia’s tournament the better. The team simply was not good enough all-round despite being in a difficult group featuring England and Belgium. It lost to a stoppage-time goal against England, with a 5-2 drubbing against Belgium to follow.
A little redemption came with a victory over Panama on the final day, but overall, the team has disappointed the audience.
Nigeria was denied advance to the knock-out stage with Marcos Rojo’s late goal in the final group game. The super eagles had the most fans of all African teams and had better global support than most of the other teams at the tournament.
However, Nigeria could not provide the required results on the pitch to satisfy the millions of fans supporting them. A 2-0 loss against eventual runners-up Croatia was followed by a 2-0 victory over Iceland, leaving the knockout phase in the balance.
Goals from Lionel Messi and Marcos Rojo eliminated Nigeria. Just like Morocco, the team was undone by a lack of a prolific finisher and wasted scoring chances.
Egypt’s pre-tournament hopes all rested on the form and fitness of the star Mohamed Salah. If Salah didn’t turn up, no way would Egypt get anything from this tournament. And so it proved.
Having sustained an injury in the Champions League final, the forward was forced to sit out the opening match against Uruguay and his absence was sorely felt. Defeat in all three matches stretched Egypt’s pitiful World Cup run by another four years, and one can only wonder if things would have been different had Salah been fit and firing during the tournament.
African teams might not have made it to the knockout stage, but overall, they have not failed our expectations.