African teams head to this year’s World Cup in Russia with a seemingly clear mission, surpass the previous generations that have reached the quarter finals of the tournament as the furthest stage for an African team.
Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana are the only African teams to have reached the quarter finals in the 1990, 2002 and 2010 tournaments. Look out for a poll at the end of this article asking you to name which African teams you think will make it out of the group stage at this year’s tournament in Russia.
Despite the fact that football legend Pele predicted more than 20 years ago that an African team would win football’s biggest prize by 2000, no African team has reached the finals of the tournament, much less winning it.
The task will fall to Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia this year, who will be cheered by millions of Africans as noted by Egypt’s star player, Mohamed Salah and Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari.
The Pharaohs of Egypt
Egypt are battling to have their star player Salah return to fitness in time for the opening game against Uruguay on . Salah injured his right shoulder during the Champions League final against Real Madrid in May.
Playing against Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay in Group A, Egypt will be hoping to better their previous records, having failed to proceed from the group stages in 1934 and 1990.
Egypt Vs Uruguay, Friday June 15
Egypt Vs Russia, Tuesday June 19
Egypt Vs Saudi Arabia, Monday June 25
Star player: Mohamed Salah
Road to Russia: Egypt’s qualification route to 2018 World Cup
Morocco’s Atlas Lions
Morocco is now focusing all its efforts on its opening game against Iran, now that they lost the bid to host the 2026 World Cup on Wednesday.
Morocco who are in Group B also take on European champions Portugal and 2010 world champions Spain.
Morocco Vs Iran, Friday June 15
Morocco vs Portugal, Wednesday June 20
Morocco vs Spain, Monday June 25
Star player: Hakim Ziyech
Road to Russia 2018: Morocco returns to World Cup after 20 years
Nigeria’s Super Eagles
The three time African champions are fielding the youngest team at the 2018 World Cup, and will be taking on familiar foes, Argentina who they have been matches four times at five World Cup appearances.
Arguably the most hyped team from Africa, Nigeria will also play against Iceland and Croatia in Group D.
Nigeria vs Croatia, Saturday June 16
Nigeria vs Iceland, Friday June 22
Nigeria vs Argentina, Tuesday June 26
Star player: Mikel Obi
Road to Russia: Nigeria’s unbeaten qualification run to the World Cup
Senegal’s Teranga Lions
Many fans in Africa and indeed all over the world have fond memories of Senegal, who stunned 1998 world champions France in the opening match of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. The West African side who won the game 1-0, went on to go all the way to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by an equally impressive Turkey with a slim 1-0 margin.
This time, the Senegal side who are coached by the captain of that 2002 side, Aliou Cisse, will be taking on Poland, Colombia and Japan in Group H.
Senegal vs Poland, Tuesday June 19
Senegal vs Japan, Sunday June 24
Senegal vs Colombia, Thursday June 28
Star player: Sadio Mane
Road to Russia 2018: Senegal returns to World Cup after bright 2002 debut
Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles
This will be the fifth time Tunisia makes it to the World Cup, but the 2004 African champions are yet to make it past the group stage in the world’s biggest football tourney.
In Group G, they will face an uphill task of making it to the round of 16 for the first time, coming up against 1966 world champions England, a Belgian side that is ranked 3rd in the World and Panama.
Tunisia, ranked 21 in the world are nevertheless the highest ranked African side going to the tournament and Belgium’s coach Roberyo Martinez has warned that this side could be the surprise package in Russia.
Tunisia vs England, Monday June 18
Tunisia vs Belgium, Saturday June 23
Tunisia vs Panama, Thursday June 28
Star player: Wahbi Khazri