As the 2014 FIFA World Cup approaches, the African community at large is excited to see what the Cameroonian, Ghanaian, Ivorian, and Nigerian teams (not to mention Algerian!) will bring to the tournament. But before we look ahead to the upcoming matches in Brazil, here’s a look back at 10 best moments of African teams in the FIFA World Cup history.
1. Morocco returns Africa to the World Cup in 1970 after a 36-year absence after an early appearance by Egypt in 1930, no African team competed in the FIFA World Cup until Morocco’s qualification in 1970. Though they didn’t make it out of the group stage, Morocco’s qualification was an important turning point for the continent’s re-entry into the international tournament.
2. Tunisia becomes the first African team to win a World Cup match despite low expectations; Tunisia entered the 1978 FIFA World Cup as a part of Group 2, alongside West Germany, Poland, and Mexico. At a rallying halftime pep talk from Coach Abdelmajid Chetali, they were told to believe in themselves and came back from trailing 0-1 to beat Mexico 3-1. Though they did not progress to the next round, they set an important precedent for future African teams.
3. Cameroon defeats defending champion Argentina with just nine men In the biggest shocker of the 1990 tournament, the underestimated Cameroon team shocked the Argentines and the world when it beat the tournament favorites 1-0. Even though they only had nine men by the end of the match, they still managed to pull it out, thanks to the winning (and only) goal from François Omam-Biyik.
4. Cameroon striker Roger Milla famously dispossesses Columbian goalkeeper René Higuita to win the game 2-1 Continuing Cameroon’s run in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, Roger Milla had a moment that went down in history as he stole the ball just 35 yards from the goal from the showboating Colombian goalie. Easily scoring on the empty net, he helped advance the Cameroonian team to the quarter finals.
5. Zambia wins first qualifying match after the majority of its team dies in airline disaster In 1994, the airplane carrying the Zambian team to Dakar crashed, killing everyone on board. They were on their way to play their first match of the tournament. The team was hastily rebuilt, and managed to pull out an unbelievable win against Morocco in the postponed game. Though they lost the final group match and did not move on in the tournament, they again bucked expectations as the new team went onto reach the finals in the 1994 African Cup of Nations.
6. Nigeria thumps semi-finalists Bulgaria in 1994 for biggest win in African World Cup history Nigeria’s 3-0 defeat of Bulgaria became the biggest winning margin by any African team in the World Cup, and went a long way to restoring the country’s pride in the tournament. Though they later lost to Italy and were eliminated, it was an important moment for the Nigerian team.
7. Senegal reaches quarter finals for second time in African football history In 2002, Senegal went on a surprise run to beat the defending champion, France, and draw with favorites Denmark and Uruguay. They beat Sweden but finally fell to Turkey in the quarter-finals. Nonetheless, it was an exciting moment for the Senegalese team, who became the sweethearts of the tournament, if only for a short time.
8. Ghana upsets Czech Republic and U.S. in its first World Cup appearance In 2006, Ghana quickly made a name for itself after a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic and a 2-1 win over the U.S. It was important foreshadowing for the 2010 World Cup, in which Ghana would proceed even farther in its second appearance in the tournament.
9. South African Winger Siphiwe Tshabalala scores first goal of 2010 World Cup Held in South Africa, the 2010 World Cup was an important moment for African football, made even bigger when a member of the host country’s team scored the very first goal of the tournament. Though South Africa would not proceed past the group stage, for at least a few moments, the 2010 World Cup was truly a South African event. The sound of vuvuzelas could be heard around the world.
10. Ghana advances to quarter final after impressive showing against U.S. Ghana made an unlikely appearance in the quarter finals of the 2010 World Cup after its 2-1 victory over the U.S., and earned the support of a continent rooting for the last African team to continue to play in the tournament held on African soil. Unfortunately, the team was knocked out by Uruguay in the quarter finals (after a controversial handball by Uruguayan forward Luis Suárez denied the team an almost-certain winning goal late in the game), but excitement over Ghana’s chances in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil have only grown as the world waits to see what the team can accomplish next.
Sources: afkinsider, Wikipedia.org, FIFA.com