World Cup 2022: Senegal and Cameroon carry Africa’s best hopes
Africa is allocated five spots
in the month-long final stage of this elite competition, held every four years. Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia secured their places after a preliminary knockout phase followed by a four-team round robin competition.
Once again, many pundits
are wondering if an African team can win it all at this unconventionally scheduled World Cup (it’s usually held mid year).
No African team has ever qualified for the semi-finals. Only Senegal, Cameroon and Ghana have reached the quarter-final stage before.
It’s not lost on the African teams that they carry the burden of history to break the proverbial glass ceiling. Many would argue that 2022 is the time to change Africa’s World Cup story.
This time, however, there’s been stability in the coaching ranks and for the first time all teams will be led by home-grown coaches
on the technical bench.
Looking at the pedigree of the African teams, and their respective opponents, Cameroon and Senegal stand the best chance to qualify for the second round and possibly beyond. Here’s a closer look at the teams’ chances.
make their sixth World Cup appearance, having featured in 1978, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2018. The Eagles of Carthage topped their second round qualification group. In the third round
, where the 10 African group winners faced off in March over two legs, home and away, Tunisia scraped past Mali on goal aggregate. Qualification still saw a change in manager, following a quarter-final exit in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations
New coach Jalel Kadri
guided his country through the play-off
. Wahbi Khazri
was Tunisia’s top scorer in qualification and will be relied on if Tunisia is to survive the star-studded sides in Group D
(France, Australia and Denmark).
It will need a major upset for them to progress to the second round, given their opposition’s pedigree.
makes a long-awaited return to the World Cup having previously qualified in 2006, 2010 and 2014. In 2010 they became only the third African team to reach the quarter-finals.
The Black Stars booked
their ticket in the final stages after topping Group G in the second round of qualification, beating South Africa, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe to set up a third-round play-off against Group C winners and fierce rivals Nigeria, whom they beat in a dramatic match.
The Black Stars will be led by new coach and former Ghana international Otto Addo
, who was in charge during the play-off win. He featured in Ghana’s first World Cup appearance in 2006. The team will be up against Portugal, the Republic of Korea, and Uruguay in Group H. A rematch with Uruguay is a painful reminder of Uruguay’s handball that stopped a goal-bound shot, leading to Ghana’s elimination in 2010.
Ghana has harnessed several top overseas-born dual nationals
to strengthen the squad. There are quality players but there’s also a lack of international experience and team cohesion, given the short window leading to the tournament.
The team will revolve around the Ayew brothers
in attack and Thomas Partey
in midfield. Although this team looks good on individual talents, building a collective understanding and cohesion defensively is a challenge the coach has to deal with to stand any chance of progressing to the second round.
is returning to the World Cup after faring poorly in the 2018 edition. They have appeared in 1970, 1986, 1994, 1998 and 2018.
This team should look to their 1986 squad for inspiration. They led their pool and were the first African team to qualify for the second round.
Now coached by Walid Regragui
, Morocco won all six matches in their group against Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sudan, scoring 20 goals and conceding only one. They then eliminated Democratic Republic of the Congo in the third round of the qualifiers.
Their talented team
face Croatia in their opening match
. It’s a game where they must aim to pick up at least a point before facing the highly rated Belgium, concluding with a must-win game against Canada to have a chance of progressing to the second round.
’s Indomitable Lions have been consistently representing Africa at the World Cup, appearing in 1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010, and 2014. They eliminated Mozambique, Malawi and Ivory Coast before setting up a playoff against Algeria, whom they beat sensationally with a goal in the 124th minute.
lies in its solid midfield play and potent attack, with a physically imposing style of play.
In 1990, Cameroon became the first African team
to make the quarter-finals. This year they face Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia. Good results against Serbia and Switzerland can propel them to the second round and even further.
shocked the footballing world when they brought down France in their 2002 World Cup debut and went on to qualify for the quarter-finals, the second African team to do so.
Reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions
, Senegal breezed through the group stage unbeaten to set up a playoff with rivals Egypt, whom they faced in the Africa Cup of Nations final.
On both occasions, Sadio Mané scored
the winning penalty in nerve-jangling shootouts. In Qatar they will look to at least match their memorable quarter-final showing in 2002. Ranked 18th
in the world, Senegal face Netherlands, Qatar and Ecuador in a group that should hold no fears for a strong side with good experience down its spine. The team sports the likes of Édouard Mendy
, captain Kalidou Koulibaly
, Idrissa Gueye
, Ismaïla Sarr
and the attacker Mané.
The downside is that Mané, runner-up for the Ballon d’Or
player of the year award, might not participate due to an injury
. But on a good day the Lions of Teranga present Africa’s best opportunity to advance in the World Cup. The team has many individual talents who have played together often and are characterised by a strong team spirit and never-say-die attitude.
This article first appeared on The Conversation. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of The Joburg Post.