Africa has given the world some great teams over the years, with the skill, style and occasional unpredictability, often seeing them get the better of higher-ranked nations.
Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia are their continent’s representatives for Qatar 2022, and all will be hoping to be the first African side to reach the semi-finals and potentially go beyond.
Algeria – 1982 World Cup
One of the greatest controversies in World Cup history was The Nichtangriffspakt von Gijon when West Germany and Austria conspired to ensure Die Mannschaft won, a result that would see the Germans progress on goal difference.
They would go on to lose in the final, but arguably, the tragedy of the tournament was that Algeria were sent home from Spain due to that result in Asturias.
The Fennec Foxes had earlier beaten West Germany 2-1 but lost to the Austrians. Having beaten Chile, they were tied with their European rivals on four points, only to be squeezed out by the outcome of that controversial game at El Molinon.
FIFA reacted by ensuring that from then on, all final round games in the individual groups would be played simultaneously. However, that was too late for the likes of Rabah Madjer, who would win the European Cup with Porto in 1987, and Lakhdar Belloumi.
Nigeria – 1994 World Cup
The Super Eagles soared on their World Cup debut in the States, with Emmanuel Amuneke their star man. The one-time Barcelona forward netted in the opening win over Bulgaria and then in the last-16 against Italy.
He was the leader of a strong squad that also included future Champions League winners Finindi George, Rashidi Yekini and Daniel Amokachi.
Having won that year’s AFCON, Nigeria had form heading into the competition. They played with freedom and confidence and were two minutes from beating the Italians in the knockout rounds.
A Roberto Baggio double broke Nigerian hearts, but their style and swagger lit up the tournament.
Ghana – 2010 World Cup
Again, an African nation was stung by controversy in 2010, with this time Ghana, the victims, although some may argue they had their chance to right the wrong dealt to them.
Milovan Rajevac’s side qualified for South Africa with a perfect record and came through a group containing Germany, Serbia and Australia.
After beating the USA 2-1 to become the third African team to reach the quarter-finals. Uruguay were their opponents in the quarters, and the Black Stars took the lead through Sully Muntari.
Diego Forlan replied, and the moment of the match came deep in stoppage time when Luis Suarez deliberately handled the ball on the line.
Asamoah Gyan stood up and cannoned the penalty off the bar. Spot-kicks were required to separate the sides and misses by John Mensah, and Dominic Adiyiah saw the Ghaniains eliminated.
The Black Stars did all this without the injured Michael Essien and had a true ‘Golden Generation’, with Gyan and the Ayew brothers the leading lights in a fine crop of players.
Senegal – 2002 World Cup
After losing in the AFCON final, Senegal were quietly confident that they could cause a few more upsets on their World Cup debut in 2002.
However, few would have seen them beating holders France 1-0 in the opening game thanks to a Pape Bouba Diop strike. Draws against Denmark and Uruguay followed before Henri Camara’s Golden Goal knocked Sweden out in the last 16.
The tables would be turned in the quarter-finals, though, as Turkey’s Ilhan Mansiz scored a Golden Goal to see his team through in Osaka.
Diop, current coach Aliou Cisse, El Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao and Camara were amongst the players who would spend time playing in England. However, Japan and Korea 2002 will arguably always be their career highlight.
Cameroon – 1990 World Cup
The Indomitable Lions had served notice with a strong showing in 1982, including a draw with eventual winners Italy.
Fast-forward eight years, and led by the ageless Roger Milla, they became the first African nation to reach the quarter-finals.
Arguably Cameroon’s most iconic footballing moment came in the round of 16, where Milla famously dispossessed Rene Higuita before passing into the empty net. He then doubled the advantage soon after to hand his side a 2-1 win in extra-time.
Before all that, they famously beat defending champions Argentina in the opening game en route to topping Group A.
In the end, it was England who eliminated the Idominatable Lions in the quarters, Gary Lineker netting twice from the penalty spot to seal a 3-2 extra-time win for Bobby Robson’s side.