African nations at the FIFA World Cup
Association football is the most popular sport in nearly every African country, and 13 members of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) have competed at the sport's biggest event - the men's FIFA World Cup.
Summary of performance
This table shows for each world cup the number of countries at the World Cup, the number of entries (#E) from around the world including any rejections and withdrawals, the number of African entries (#A), how many of those African entries withdrew (#A-) before/during qualification or were rejected by FIFA, the African representatives at the World Cup finals, the number of World Cup Qualifiers each African representative had to play to get to the World Cup (#WCQ), the furthest stage they reached, their results, and their coaches.
|1934||Italy||16||32||1||0||Egypt||2||R1||lost 2-4 Hungary||James McRea|
|1970||Mexico||16||75||14||2||Morocco||10||R1||lost 1-2 West Germany, lost 0-3 Peru, drew 1-1 Bulgaria||Blagoja Vidinić|
|1974||West Germany||16||99||24||2||Zaire||10||R1||lost 0-2 Scotland, lost 0-9 Yugoslavia, lost 0-3 Brazil||Blagoja Vidinić|
|1978||Argentina||16||107||26||4||Tunisia||10||R1||won 3-1 Mexico, lost 0-1 Poland, drew 0-0 West Germany||Abdelmajid Chetali|
|1982||Spain||24||109||29||4||Algeria||8||R1||won 2-1 West Germany, lost 0-2 Austria, won 3-2 Chile|| Mahieddine Khalef
|Cameroon||8||R1||drew 0-0 Peru, drew 0-0 Poland, drew 1-1 Italy||Jean Vincent|
|1986||Mexico||24||121||29||3||Algeria||6||R1||drew 1-1 Northern Ireland, lost 0-1 Brazil, lost 0-3 Spain||Rabah Saâdane|
|Morocco||8||R2||drew 0-0 Poland, drew 0-0 England, win 3-1 Portugal
R2: lost 0-1 West Germany
|1990||Italy||24||116||26||5||Cameroon||8||QF||won 1-0 Argentina, won 2-1 Romania, lost 0-4 Soviet Union
R2: won 2-1 Colombia, QF: lost 2-3 (a.e.t.) England
|Egypt||8||R1||drew 1-1 Netherlands, drew 0-0 Republic of Ireland, lost 0-1 England||Mahmoud El-Gohary|
|1994||USA||24||147||40||12||Cameroon||8||R1||drew 2-2 Sweden, lost 0-3 Brazil, lost 1-6 Russia||Henri Michel|
|Morocco||10||R1||lost 0-1 Belgium, lost 1-2 Saudi Arabia, lost 1-2 Netherlands||Abdellah Blinda|
|Nigeria||8||R2||won 3-0 Bulgaria, lost 1-2 Argentina, won 2-0 Greece
R2: lost 1-2 (a.e.t.) Italy
|1998||France||32||174||38||3||Cameroon||6||R1||drew 1-1 Austria, lost 0-3 Italy, drew 1-1 Chile||Claude Le Roy|
|Morocco||6||R1||drew 2-2 Norway, lost 0-3 Brazil, won 3-0 Scotland||Henri Michel|
|Nigeria||6||R2||won 3-2 Spain, won 1-0 Bulgaria, lost 1-3 Paraguay
R2: lost 1-4 Denmark
|South Africa||8||R1||lost 0-3 France, drew 1-1 Denmark, drew 2-2 Saudi Arabia||Philippe Troussier|
|Tunisia||8||R1||lost 0-2 England, lost 0-1 Colombia, drew 1-1 Romania||Henryk Kasperczak|
|32||199||51||2||Cameroon||10||R1||drew 1-1 Republic of Ireland, won 1-0 Saudi Arabia, lost 0-2 Germany||Winfried Schäfer|
|Nigeria||10||R1||lost 0-1 Argentina, lost 1-2 Sweden, drew 0-0 England||Festus Onigbinde|
|South Africa||8||R1||drew 2-2 Paraguay, won 1-0 Slovenia, lost 2-3 Spain||Jomo Sono|
|Senegal||10||QF||won 1-0 France, drew 1-1 Denmark, drew 3-3 Uruguay
R2: won 2-1 (a.e.t.) Sweden, QF: lost 0-1 Turkey
|Tunisia||10||R1||lost 0-2 Russia, drew 1-1 Belgium, lost 0-2 Japan||Ammar Souayah|
|2006||Germany||32||197||51||1||Angola||12||R1||lost 0-1 Portugal, drew 0-0 Mexico, drew 1-1 Iran||Luís Oliveira Gonçalves|
|Ivory Coast||10||R1||lost 1-2 Argentina, lost 1-2 Netherlands, won 3-2 Serbia and Montenegro||Henri Michel|
|Ghana||12||R2||lost 0-2 Italy, won 2-0 Czech Republic, won 2-1 United States
R2: lost 0-3 Brazil
|Togo||12||R1||lost 1-2 South Korea, lost 0-2 Switzerland, lost 0-2 France||Otto Pfister|
|Tunisia||10||R1||drew 2-2 Saudi Arabia, lost 1-3 Spain, lost 0-1 Ukraine||Roger Lemerre|
|2010||South Africa||32||204||53||4||Algeria||13||R1||lost 0-1 Slovenia, drew 0-0 England, lost 0-1 United States||Rabah Saâdane|
|Cameroon||12||R1||lost 0-1 Japan, lost 1-2 Denmark, lost 1-2 Netherlands||Paul Le Guen|
|Ivory Coast||12||R1||drew 0-0 Portugal, lost 1-3 Brazil, won 3-0 North Korea||Sven-Göran Eriksson|
|Ghana||12||QF||won 1-0 Serbia, drew 1-1 Australia, lost 0-1 Germany
R2: won 2-1 (a.e.t.) United States, QF: drew 1-1 (2-4 p.s.o.) Uruguay
|Nigeria||12||R1||lost 0-1 Argentina, lost 1-2 Greece, drew 2-2 South Korea||Lars Lagerbäck|
|South Africa||host||R1||drew 1-1 Mexico, lost 0-3 Uruguay, won 2-1 France||Carlos Alberto Parreira|
|Egypt / Egypt||
Performance at individual World Cups
1930s: Egypt's early appearance
The inaugural 1930 FIFA World Cup was the only one without any qualification process. No African teams entered.
The Pharaohs of Egypt were the only African team to apply to feature at the 1934 FIFA World Cup. As there were 32 countries competing for 16 places, FIFA organized the first qualification round. Egypt was placed in a group with Turkey and Palestine, then a British mandate. Turkey withdrew, and Egypt beat Palestine 7-1 in Cairo and 4-1 in Jerusalem to qualify for the World Cup finals. The 1934 FIFA World Cup finals was organized as a straight knock-out. Egypt lost 2-4 to Hungary in Naples with Abdulrahman Fawzi scoring twice to become the first African to score at the World Cup finals. However, a third goal by Fawzi was ruled offside by the Italian referee despite the player having dribbled from the middle of the pitch, and the fourth Hungarian goal involved a scuffle where the Hungarian striker broke the Egyptian goalkeeper's nose with his elbow. The Italian newspapers heavily criticized their referee, but Egypt sailed home and only returned to the World Cup finals 56 years later.
1938-1966: World Cup without Africa
No African countries applied to compete at the 1950 FIFA World Cup.
Egypt was the only African country to apply to compete at the 1954 World Cup. They were placed in a two-team group with Italy, but lost 1-2 in Cairo and 1-5 in Milan, and thus did not proceed to the World Cup.
Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan applied to enter the qualification process for the 1958 FIFA World Cup. Ethiopia's entry was refused by FIFA. Egypt and Sudan competed in an Africa/Asia zone with ten Asian countries for one spot at the World Cup. Egypt progressed to the next round after Cyprus withdrew, but then itself withdrew. Sudan defeated Syria 2-1 on aggregate but eventually withdrew in protest at having to play Israel. (Eventually the spot originally reserved for Africa and Asia was taken by Wales.)
Seven African countries entered the qualification process for the 1962 FIFA World Cup : Ghana, United Arab Republic (a joint football association by Egypt and Syria, who were politically united between 1958 and 1961), Ethiopia, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan and Tunisia. Ethiopia entered through the UEFA qualification process, where it was eliminated by Israel, while the rest entered through the CAF qualification process. Sudan and U.A.R. withdrew as FIFA would not allow them to rearrange matches to avoid the monsoon season, so the four teams formed two two-team groups. In the first group, Morocco and Tunisia both beat each other 2-1 at home, and then played a third match at a neutral location (Palermo, Italy) which ended in a 1-1 draw after extra time. Since penalty shootouts were not used by FIFA till the 1970s, Morocco advanced by drawing lots to eliminate Tunisia. Morocco then eliminated Ghana with a draw and a win to proceed to a UEFA/CAF playoff with Spain. They lost both legs of this playoff, meaning that no African nation made it to the World Cup finals for the fifth time in a row.
Seventeen African countries entered the qualification process for the 1966 FIFA World Cup : Algeria, Cameroon, French Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, and Tunisia. FIFA rejected the application of French Congo, and had already suspended South Africa for apartheid. To protest at FIFA's allocation of only one spot to three continents (Africa, Asia, Oceania), especially given the large increase in applications from newly independent African countries, the remaining fifteen African nations withdrew.
1970: Morocco returns Africa to the World Cup
Fourteen African countries entered the qualification process for the 1970 World Cup : Algeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rhodesia, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia, Zaire, and Zambia. FIFA rejected the applications of Guinea and Zaire. The Atlas Lions of Morocco played ten matches to qualify for the single CAF spot at the World Cup, advancing along the way past Tunisia by virtue of a coin toss.
Rhodesia, having been expelled from CAF for having a white minority government, entered through the Asia/Oceania qualifying group, where they had to play against Australia in Portuguese-held Mozambique (there was a boycott against playing matches in Rhodesia). The first two matches were drawn, thanks in large part to the excellent Rhodesian goalkeeper Robin Jordan, and the desperate Australians hired a Mozambican sangoma to 'curse' him. In the third match, Jordan was taken off injured after a collision with another player, Australia won 3–1, then refused to pay the sangoma, got 'cursed' by the irate man, and were eliminated two weeks later by Israel. Meanwhile, Rhodesia's CAF expulsion was soon followed by a FIFA expulsion, with Zimbabwe readmitted in 1980.
At the 1970 World Cup, Morocco was placed in Group 4 along with West Germany, Peru, and Bulgaria. They lost 1–2 to eventual semi-finalists West Germany, lost 0–3 to Peru, and drew 1–1 with Bulgaria. The two goalscorers were Houmane Jarir (against West Germany) and Maouhoub Ghazouani (against Bulgaria), who were thus the second and third ever African goalscorers at the World Cup. Morocco finished bottom of the group, on goal difference, with one point - the first African point in the World Cup.
1974: Zaire makes an impression
24 African countries entered the qualification process for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, with the Leopards of Zaire eventually qualifying quite comfortably, scoring 18 goals and conceding 5 in the ten matches they played to qualify.
At the 1974 FIFA World Cup, Zaire were placed in Group 2 along with Scotland, Yugoslavia (home of Zaire coach and 1970 Morocco coach Blagoja Vidinić), and Brazil. In their first match against Scotland, they impressed with their fast attacking style, and lost just 0-2. Scottish centre-half Jim Holton said after the match "Let's face it, we underestimated them. For fifteen minutes I wondered what the hell was going on, where the devil had this lot come from, playing stuff like that!"
The next opponents Yugoslavia had noted holes in the Zairean defence, and fully exploited them to hammer Zaire 9-0 in a then record win for World Cup finals, with all but three of their outfield players getting on the scoresheet. Zaire striker Mulamba Ndaye, who was sent off for protesting that a goal by the Yugoslavians was offside, said after the match, "The management had made off with our match bonuses, and we'd threatened not to play the game. Frankly we'd lost our morale. We could easily have let in 20 goals."
After the defeat, the Zairean team were told by the country's dictator Mobutu Sese Seko - who had rewarded the players for qualifying with a house and a car each - not to come home if defending champions Brazil beat them 4-0 or worse. Zaire managed to keep Brazil to merely a 0-3 defeat, with Zairean defender Mwepu Ilunga receiving a yellow card for interfering with a free kick. Zaire left the tournament without scoring a goal.
1978: Tunisia becomes first African team to win at the World Cup
26 African countries entered the qualification process for 1 spot at the 1978 FIFA World Cup. In comparison, 22 Asia/Oceania countries also competed for 1 spot, while 31 European countries competed for 8.5 spots. Les Aigles de Carthage (The Carthage Eagles) of Tunisia eventually qualified, along the way eliminating Morocco in the first ever penalty shootout in World Cup qualification history. This was a major change for Tunisia, who had been eliminated by Morocco quite literally by chance on three previous occasions in the 1960s.
Tunisia were placed in Group 2 with West Germany, Poland, and Mexico. After Zaire's fate in 1974, they were not expected to do well. They were 0-1 down to Mexico at half-time when their Tunisian coach Abdelmajid Chetali told them that they treated their opponents with too much respect, and that they could still win the game if they tackled hard and imposed their belief and self-confidence. Buoyed by the pep talk, the North Africans scored thrice in the second half to win 3-1 and become the first African team to win a match at the World Cup. They lost their next match to Poland 1-0, missing several chances, and held West Germany to a goalless draw. While this was not enough to progress to the next round, African football pride had been restored.
1982: Algeria wins twice but eliminated
This was the first World Cup with 24 teams, and Africa's representation was doubled. So 29 African countries competed for 2 spots in World Cup qualification. In comparison, 21 Asian nations also competed for 2 spots, but 33 European nations competed for 13 spots. 1978 finalists Tunisia were eliminated in the first round by Nigeria on penalties. Four series of knockout rounds were played, with the final two spots going down to Nigeria vs Algeria, and Morocco vs Cameroon. Both Les Fennecs (The Desert Foxes) of Algeria and Les Lions Indomptables (The Indomitable Lions) of Cameroon won 2-0 away and 2-1 at home and qualified for the World Cup.
Cameroon were placed in Group 1, where they surprised everyone by remaining undefeated. They drew 0-0 with Peru, 0-0 with Poland, and 1-1 with Italy. Grégoire Mbida scored Cameroon's first World Cup finals goal. Italy had also drawn its three matches, so also had a goal difference of 0, but had scored two goals to Cameroon's one, so Cameroon were eliminated. This was especially painful because in their opening match against Peru, Cameroon striker Roger Milla had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside.
Algeria were placed in Group 2 with West Germany, Austria, and Chile. The Africans produced a major upset in the first match, beating West Germany 2-1 with goals by Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi. They lost their second match 0-2 to Austria, then produced another surprise by beating Chile 3-2. The day after the Algeria vs Chile match, West Germany and Austria played the final group match in Gijón knowing that a 1-0 or 2-0 win for West Germany would result in both European teams qualifying at the expense of Algeria on goal difference. West Germany scored after ten minutes, and then both teams appeared to pass the ball aimlessly around for the remaining 80 minutes.
This performance was widely deplored by all observers. The Spanish crowd shouted, "Fuera, fuera!" ("Out, out!") while angry Algerian supporters waved banknotes at the players to suggest that the game was fixed. Even the two sides' fans were disgusted, with an Austrian television commentator advising viewers to turn off their TV sets, a German television commentator refusing to commentate further, and a German fan burning his national flag in protest. Furious Algerian football officials lodged an official protest, but the two teams denied any collusion. As nothing could be proved and the two teams had technically broken no rules, FIFA allowed the result to stand. FIFA did change the rules - in future World Cups, the final two games in each group are played simultaneously. Thus Algeria were eliminated from the 1982 FIFA World Cup at the first hurdle despite two wins.
1986: Morocco becomes first African team into the Round of 16
As with 1982, 29 African countries entered the qualification process for two spots at the World Cup. There were four series of knockout rounds, with four Mediterranean countries making the final round. Algeria beat neighbours Tunisia 7-1 on aggregate and Morocco beat Libya 3-1 on aggregate to both qualify for their second World Cups.
Algeria were placed in Group D with Brazil, Spain, and Northern Ireland. They did not reach the heights of its previous finals appearance, drawing 1-1 with Northern Ireland, losing 0-1 to Brazil, and losing 0-3 to Spain.
Morocco shocked both Poland and England with goalless draws, and then defeated Portugal 3-1 to become the first African team to progress beyond the first round. In the second round, they faced a West German side that had seven survivors from the Shame of Gijón match. Goalkeeper Badou Zaki kept Morocco in the game with a series of excellent saves, but was finally beaten in the 87th minute by Shame of Gijón substitute Lothar Matthäus. West Germany won 1-0 and went on to reach their second successive final.
1990: Cameroon's Indomitable Lions reach the Quarter Finals
26 African countries entered the qualification process for 2 spots at the 1990 FIFA World Cup. This was the first time African qualification moved from a mostly straight home-away knockout format to include group stages early on. Finally it came down to four teams playing in two playoffs for the final: Algeria vs Egypt and Tunisia vs Cameroon. Cameroon beat Tunisia 2-0 at home and 1-0 away, and qualified for their second World Cup. However, the playoff between the two North African sides was significantly more ill-tempered.
After a goalless draw in Constantine, Egypt beat Algeria 1-0 in Cairo to qualify for the World Cup. After the Cairo match, an Algerian player gouged out an Egyptian team doctor's eye with a broken bottle. The player blamed, Lakhdar Belloumi (who scored the winning goal in Algeria's 2-1 defeat of West Germany in 1982), was not allowed to travel outside Algeria owing to an Interpol international arrest warrant for twenty years till the (financially compensated) Egyptian doctor dropped the charges in 2009. Belloumi always claimed innocence in the incident, with him and other players pointing the finger at Algerian goalkeeper Kamel Kadri instead.
There was tragedy during the second round Group C match between Nigeria and Angola on 12 August 1989 at the Lagos National Stadium when 24-year old Nigerian midfielder (and qualified lawyer) Samuel Okwaraji collapsed and died of congestive heart failure in the 77th minute.
Egypt were placed in Group F with England, Netherlands, and Ireland. It turned out to be one of the tightest groups in World Cup history, with five draws in six games. Egypt drew 1-1 with the Netherlands, drew 0-0 with Ireland, but lost their final match 0-1 to England. Egypt's only goal of the tournament was a penalty by Magdi Abdelghani against the Netherlands. Egypt were thus eliminated from World Cup, still without a win after losing their only match in 1930.
Cameroon were undoubtedly the surprise package of the tournament. In their first match, they shocked Diego Maradona's defending champions Argentina 1-0 through a goal by François Omam-Biyik, despite finishing their match with nine men. In their next match, they defeated Romania 2-1 thanks to two goals from 38-year old substitute Roger Milla. These were Milla's first official goals in the World Cup; he had had a goal against Peru wrongly disallowed for offside during the 1982 FIFA World Cup. Having already qualified for the next round, Cameroon then suffered their first loss (after three draws and two wins) in World Cup history, losing 0-4 to the Soviet Union. In the second round, Cameroon defeated Colombia 2-1, with Milla again coming on as a second half substitute to score twice, famously dispossessing Colombian goalkeeper René Higuita for one of them. By this time, Roger Milla, his post-goal celebrations, and Cameroon had firmly implanted themselves in the global footballing consciousness. In the quarter finals, they were seven minutes from qualifying for the semi-finals when England were awarded a penalty. England won the match 3-2 after extra time, with three of the five goals coming from penalties (1 for Cameroon, 2 for England).
1994: Zambian air tragedy, Nigeria reaches Round of 16
40 African countries entered the qualification process for 3 spots at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The extra spot was awarded after the strong performances of Cameroon and Egypt at Italia 90. However, only 28 played all their matches after FIFA rejected Libya (due to UN sanctions) and 11 other nations withdrew at various stages. There was a new qualification format, with two group stages. The big casualty of the first stage was 1990 finalists Egypt, as crowd trouble in Cairo turned a 2-1 home victory over Zimbabwe into a crucial 0-0 draw when FIFA ordered the match replayed at a neutral location.
In the new second stage of qualification were three groups of three, with winners qualifying for the World Cup. The Super Eagles of Nigeria won Group A on goal difference, beating both Côte d'Ivoire and Algeria 4-1 in Lagos. In Group C, Cameroon won the group with 3 wins and a loss away to second placed Zimbabwe, with Guinea coming third.
In Group B were Morocco, Senegal, and Zambia. In the first match, Morocco beat Senegal 1-0. In the second match, Zambia were to face Senegal in Dakar. However, the plane carrying the Zambian team crashed en route on 28 April 1993. The crash, attributed to mechanical problems and pilot error, killed all thirty people on board, including nearly the entire football team - 18 players - and coaches, support staff, and plane crew. (The Zambian government had yet to release a report on the investigation of the crash of the military plane even ten years later.) Only two European-based players from the original squad missed the flight - Charles Musonda of Anderlecht, who was injured, and captain Kalusha Bwalya, who was flying in from Europe where he played with PSV Eindhoven. All matches in the group were postponed for a month. Zambia hastily put together a new team, captained by Bwalya, and defeated Morocco 2-1 in Lusaka in the first match with the new team with goals from Kalusha Bwalya and Johnson Bwalya (not related). However, they lost their final group match 0-1 to Morocco in Casablanca and Morocco won Group B by one point. Amazingly, the rebuilt Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) also went on to reach the finals of the 1994 African Cup of Nations.
At the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals in the USA, Cameroon drew their first game in Group B with eventual semi-finalists Sweden 2-2 and lost their second to eventual winners Brazil 0-3. They were 0-3 down to Russia in their third match when half-time substitute Roger Milla scored in the 46th minute (becoming at 42 the oldest man ever to score at the World Cup finals) and sparked brief hopes of a miracle comeback. However, the final score was a 1-6 loss to Russia, with Oleg Salenko netting a record-breaking five goals in vain. In Group F, Morocco lost its three matches by a goal each, 0-1 to Belgium, 1-2 to Saudi Arabia, and 1-2 to the Netherlands.
In Group D, Nigeria thumped eventual semi-finalists Bulgaria 3-0, then fell to a 1-2 loss to Argentina before beating Greece 2-0. Nigeria, Bulgaria, and Argentina all finished on six points and qualified for the second round. In the second round, Nigeria faced Italy. Emmanuel Amuneke scored in the 25th minute, leaving Nigeria with a 1-0 lead two minutes from the next round when Roberto Baggio scored in the 88th minute. Baggio scored again in extra time to send Nigeria home.
This was the third successive World Cup where an African team progressed beyond the first stage, after Morocco in 1986 and Cameroon in 1990. This was a major factor in FIFA increasing Africa's allocation from 3 to 5 spots as the World Cup expanded from 24 to 32 four years later.
1998: Nigeria reaches the Round of 16 again
38 African countries entered the qualification process for 5 spots at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. This was the first time that three points, instead of two, were awarded for a win. Burundi won both their first round qualification matches but then had to withdraw due to civil war. Sierra Leone, who they had just eliminated, took their place in the second round, and then became the first nation in World Cup qualifying history to be eliminated twice in the same qualifying campaign. Eventually, Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, and Tunisia qualified for the World Cup finals along with newcomers Bafana Bafana of South Africa, who had only been readmitted to FIFA in 1992.
The five African teams all took European coaches (three Frenchman, one Serb, one Pole) to the finals, making it the first time since 1974 that there was no African coach at the World Cup.
In Group A, Morocco drew their first match 2-2 with Norway and then lost 0-3 to Brazil. The last two matches in the group were played simultaneously (as they had after the Shame of Gijón in 1982) - with ten minutes left, Morocco were leading Scotland 2-0 while Brazil led Norway 1-0. But Norway scored twice in the 83rd and 88th minutes to beat Brazil 2-1. Morocco also scored once more to beat Scotland 3-0, but went home.
In Group B, Cameroon drew their first match 1-1 with Austria (the Austrians equalizing in the 90th minute) but then lost 0-3 to Italy. Cameroon could have progressed if they won their final group match against Chile, but they drew 1-1 and went home. During the final match, Cameroon's Rigobert Song became the first man to pick up red cards at two World Cups - he was sent off as a 17 year old against Brazil in 1994. (The second man to be red carded at two World Cups would be Zinedine Zidane eight years later.)
In Group C, South Africa began their debut World Cup finals campaign with a 0-3 loss to hosts and eventual champions France. They then drew 1-1 with Denmark, Benni McCarthy scoring their first World Cup finals goal. They needed to win big in their final match against Saudi Arabia but could only manage a 2-2 draw, giving away two penalties and only managing to equalize late into injury time with their own penalty, taken by brace-scorer Shaun Bartlett.
In Group D, Nigeria opened with a 3-2 win over fancied Spain and another 1-0 win over Bulgaria. Having qualified for the next stage, they then lost 1-3 to Paraguay. Both Nigeria and Paraguay qualified for the next stage, with Spain losing out despite thumping Bulgaria 6-1. However, in the Round of 16, Nigeria were beaten 1-4 by Denmark. All Nigeria's six goals in the tournament came from six different players.
In Group G, Tunisia lost their first two matches 0-2 to England and 0-1 to Colombia. They then managed to draw 1-1 with Romania, who had won their first two matches and topped the group. Thus Tunisia's second appearance at the World Cup (after 1978) ended in them scoring only one goal, a penalty.
Thus only 2 of Africa's 5 representatives came away with at least one win. However, there was an African representative in the second round for the fourth time in succession.
2002: Senegal reaches the quarter finals
51 African countries entered the qualification process for five spots at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Four of the five 1998 finalists again made it through, with Les Lions de la Teranga (Teranga Lions) of Senegal replacing Morocco. Senegal and Morocco topped the same qualification group each with four wins, three draws, and a loss, but Senegal had a seven-goal superior goal difference thanks to their 9–0 aggregate thrashings of group minnows Namibia. In contrast, the Namibians had managed to hold Morocco to a goalless draw in Windhoek.
Like Cameroon 12 years earlier, Senegal started with a shock 1-0 win over the defending champions and went on to reach the quarter finals. In Group A, after beating France 1-0 with a goal from Papa Bouba Diop, they drew 1-1 with eventual group winners Denmark. In their final match against Uruguay, they were leading 3-0 at half-time. In the second half, the South Americans - for whom a win would have them progress at Senegal's expense - scored twice, and then a third time with an 88th-minute penalty kick. Senegal survived the frenetic final minutes of the game to hang on to a 3-3 result. Thus and Senegal progressed to the next round while former champions Uruguay and France went home. In the Round of 16, a golden goal in extra time (to add to his 37th-minute strike) from Henri Camara took Senegal 2-1 past Sweden after extra time. But in the quarter-finals against Turkey, they were eliminated by a golden goal four minutes into extra time.
In Group B, South Africa drew 2-2 with Paraguay with an injury time penalty, then scored their first ever World Cup win by beating Slovenia 1-0. However a 2-3 loss to Spain then sent South Africa home. In Group E, Cameroon drew 1-1 with Republic of Ireland, beat Saudi Arabia 1-0, and then lost 0-2 to Germany. In Group F, Nigeria lost 0-1 to Argentina, lost 1-2 to Sweden, and having been eliminated, held England to a 0-0 draw. In Group H, Tunisia lost 0-2 to Russia, drew 1-1 with Belgium, and lost 0-2 to co-hosts Japan.
Of Africa's five representatives, three won at least once, but only one progressed beyond the first round. Still, Senegal's surprise run made it the fifth successive time an African nation had made it to the Round of 16, and the second time an African country had reached the quarter finals. Three of the five African nations (South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia) took a local coach to the World Cup; only one of those three scored a win.
2006: Ghana reaches the Round of 16
51 African countries entered the race for 5 spots at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in a qualification process that doubled as one for the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations. In the final qualification round, teams were organized into five groups of six teams, with winners qualifying for the World Cup and the top three for the continental tournament. More matches were needed to qualify - while at both the 1998 and 2002 32-team World Cups, 3 of the 5 African teams played only 6 matches to get to the finals, here 3 of the 5 teams that qualified played 12 matches. Four of Africa's five representatives to the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals were debutants, in contrast to 2002 when four of five had appeared at the previous World Cup.
In Group 1, Togo beat 2002 World Cup quarterfinalists Senegal by two points. The Black Stars of Ghana won Group 2 by five points while in Group 3, Les Éléphants of Côte d'Ivoire lost both its matches to Cameroon but won the group since Cameroon drew too often. In Group 5, Tunisia won the group one point ahead of 1998 finalists and perennial rivals Morocco. Although Morocco was the only African team (of those who played a match) to remain undefeated, it drew half its matches. In Group 4, Angola and Nigeria both finished with 21 points after 10 matches, with Nigeria having a far superior goal difference thanks largely to scoring five goals against both Algeria and 3rd placed Zimbabwe in their last two matches. However, it had already been decided that head to head results were to be used to break such ties in 2006 World Cup Qualification before goal difference. The Palancas Negras (Black Antelopes) of Angola, having beaten Nigeria 2-1 on aggregate, qualified for the World Cup.
At the World Cup Finals, Côte d'Ivoire lost its first two Group C matches 1-2 to Argentina and 1-2 to the Netherlands before coming back from 0-2 down to beat Serbia and Montenegro 3-2. In Group D, Angola - the only African team at the finals with a local coach (Luís Oliveira Gonçalves) - lost their first match 0-1 to Portugal, then drew 0-0 with Mexico and 1-1 with Iran. In Group G, Togo made more news off the pitch with disputes over team bonuses causing coach Otto Pfister to walk out on the team until just before the first match and FIFA officials having to step in to stop players threatening to boycott the second match. Togo lost 1-2 to Korea, lost 0-2 to Switzerland, and 0-2 to eventual finalists France. In Group H, Tunisia drew 2-2 with Saudi Arabia, lost 1-3 to Spain (including an injury time penalty from Fernando Torres), and 0-1 to Ukraine.
In Group E, Ghana began with up a 0-2 loss to eventual winners Italy with a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic and a 2-1 win over the USA. Thus the debutants ensured an African representative in the Round of 16 for the sixth successive World Cup. They lost 0-3 to Brazil in the Round of 16. The match was later alleged to have been fixed, charges immediately denied by the Ghana Football Association.
While for the sixth successive time there was an African team in the Round of 16, Africa remained the only continent (other than Oceania) to never have two teams reach the Round of 16 at the same World Cup.
2010: Ghana gets to Quarter Final
In the 2010 World Cup Ghana progressed beyond the group stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and reached the quarter-finals where they were eliminated by Uruguay. Ghana were defeated by Uruguay on penalties after Luis Suárez controversially handballed on the goal line deep into extra time, denying Ghana an almost certain winning goal. Had Ghana won their quarter final they would have become the first African nation to progress to the semi finals of the world cup. Of the 32 countries that participated in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, FIFA ranked Ghana 7th.
African firsts at the World Cup
- First African country at the World Cup: Egypt in 1934
- First African to score at the World Cup: Abdulrahman Fawzi, who scored both Egypt's goals in 2-4 loss against Hungary in 1934. He netted a third, but was ruled offside.
- First African country to score a point at the World Cup Finals : Morocco in 1970, with a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria
- First African country to win a match at the World Cup Finals : Tunisia in 1978 with 3-1 over Mexico
- Heaviest African defeat at the World Cup Finals: Zaire 0-9 loss to Yugoslavia in 1974
- Biggest African win at the World Cup Finals: Nigeria 3-0 over Bulgaria in 1994, Morocco 3-0 over Scotland in 1998.
- First African coach at the World Cup Group Finals: Abdelmajid Chetali of Tunisia in 1978
- First African team to reach round of 16: Morocco in 1986
- First African team to reach quarter-finals: Cameroon in 1990
- First team to use penalties in World Cup Qualification: Tunisia in 1978, beating Morocco 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
- Oldest man to score at World Cup Finals: Roger Milla, aged 42, against Russia in 1994 FIFA World Cup. (Russia won the match 6-1.)
- Fastest-ever hat-trick in an "A" international: Abdul Hamid Bassiouny of Egypt scored a hat-trick in 177 seconds against Namibia in a 2002 World Cup qualifier in Alexandria on 13 July 2001 during a 8-2 win by Egypt.
- Most matches played by an African team to qualify for the World Cup Finals : 13, by Algeria in 2010.
- First African to score an own goal at the World Cup : Youssef Chippo of Morocco in the 2-2 draw against Norway on 10 June 1998. Two days later, Pierre Issa of South Africa scored an own goal in the 0-3 loss to France.
- First African to score a penalty at the World Cup: Magdi Abdelghani of Egypt in the 1-1 draw against the Netherlands at Italia 90.
- First African country to host the World Cup: South Africa in 2010
- First African player to receive a yellow card at the World Cup: Kidumu Mantantu of Zaire against Scotland in 1974 FIFA World Cup on 14 June 1974.
- First African player to receive a red card at the World Cup: Mulamba Ndaye of Zaire against Yugoslavia in 1974 FIFA World Cup on 18 June 1974.
- First African goalkeeper to receive a red card at the World Cup: Itumeleng Khune of South Africa against Uruguay at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. (He was the second goalkeeper ever sent off at the World Cup finals, after Italy's Gianluca Pagliuca of Italy at the 1994 FIFA World Cup.)
- During qualification for the 1938 FIFA World Cup, Egypt withdrew before playing any matches.
- During qualification for the 1958 FIFA World Cup, Ethiopia's application was rejected by FIFA, while Egypt and Sudan withdrew after early wins, the latter in protest at having to play Israel.
- During qualification for the 1962 FIFA World Cup, Sudan and the United Arab Republic (Egypt) tried to rearrange matches to avoid the monsoon season. FIFA refused to approve this, and they withdrew without playing any matches.
- FIFA rejected the application of French Congo to the 1966 FIFA World Cup, and had already expelled South Africa for apartheid. The 15 other African countries in the competition later withdrew without playing any matches to protest the poor allocation of World Cup spots.
- FIFA rejected the applications of Guinea and Zaire for the 1970 FIFA World Cup.
- During qualification for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, Gabon and Madagascar withdrew without playing any matches.
- During qualification for the 1978 FIFA World Cup, Central African Republic, Sudan, Tanzania and Zaire withdrew without playing any matches.
- During qualification for the 1982 FIFA World Cup, Central African Republic were excluded by FIFA for not paying the entry fee, Ghana and Uganda withdrew without playing any matches, and Libya withdrew in the second round as they refused to play a rearranged match against Egypt in Italy.
- During qualification for the 1986 FIFA World Cup, Lesotho, Niger and Togo withdrew without playing any matches.
- During qualification for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, FIFA rejected the applications of Mauritius and Mozambique due to outstanding financial debts. Lesotho, Rwanda, and Togo withdrew without kicking a ball, while Libya withdrew during the second round after playing three matches.
- During qualification for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Libya was excluded owing to UN sanctions. Burkina Faso, Malawi, São Tomé and Príncipe and Sierra Leone withdrew before the draw was made. Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Sudan, Uganda withdrew after the draw but before playing any matches. War-torn Liberia withdrew having played two matches, while Tanzania withdrew after playing four matches.
- During qualification for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Mali and Niger withdrew without playing a match. War-torn Burundi withdrew after having won two matches and having qualified for the second round.
- During qualification for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Burundi withdrew before the draw was made and thus played no matches. Guinea was disqualified by FIFA after they had played five matches because the Guinea Football Association was suspended due to political interference.
- During qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Central African Republic withdrew without playing a match.
- During qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Central African Republic, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Eritrea withdrew without playing a match. Ethiopia were excluded from the competition after playing four matches when FIFA suspended the Ethiopian Football Federation.
- Mauritania are not participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
- The Palestine football team consisted of Jewish and British footballers, not Arab footballers. The FIFA fact sheet History of the FIFA World Cup Preliminary Competition states on page 9 that "The 'Palestine' that had participated in previous competitions in the 1930s was actually the forerunner of today's Israel team and as such bears no relation to the national team of modern Palestine. See here for more details and references.
- "FIFA Match Report for Hungary vs Egypt on 27 May 1934 in Naples". FIFA. Archived from the original on 14 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-10.
- "1934: The flying Egyptian". BBC Sport. 3 May 2002.
- Israel had qualified for the 1958 World Cup without having played any of its eight scheduled matches as all of its opponents - Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt, Sudan - withdrew for various reasons. FIFA had a rule that no country could qualify for the World Cup finals without playing a game, so they asked Israel to play a two-legged playoff against an already eliminated Wales, who beat them 4-0 and became the fourth British nation at the 1958 FIFA World Cup.
- Morocco eliminated Tunisia on a coin toss or by drawing lots during qualification rounds for the 1962 and 1970 World Cups, and during qualification rounds for the 1968 Olympics. After FIFA introduced penalty kicks after 1970, Tunisia eliminated Morocco during qualification for the 1978 World Cup on penalties - the first time penalties had been used in World Cup qualification. Tunisia was not the only country eliminated by drawing lots during World Cup qualification - Spain were eliminated by Turkey by drawing lots during 1954 World Cup Qualification.
- "FIFA Fact Sheet: History of the FIFA World Cup (TM) Preliminary Competition (by year)". FIFA. 2010. Archived from the original on 14 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-09.
- Australians sure they can win their next game easily - The Age, 26 November 1969
- The last match against Morocco was forfeited by the Moroccans as it was a dead rubber.
- "1974: Zaire's show of shame". BBC News. 22 May 2002.
- "1978: Tunisia break the jinx". BBC Sport. 24 May 2002. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-09.
- Booth, Lawrence; Rob Smyth (11 August 2004). "What's the dodgiest game in football history?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-15.
- "FIFA match report: Germany FR vs Austria, 1982 World Cup".
- "FIFA match report: Morocco vs Germany FR, 1986 World Cup".
- "FIFA match report: Germany FR vs Algeria, 1982 World Cup".
- Oliver, Brian (10 October 2009). "Egypt and Algeria repeat hate match". London: Guardian (UK). Retrieved 2010-08-06.
- "Can you help us?". BBC News. 27 March 2004.
- "Zambia disaster plans in disarray". BBC Sport. 10 April 2003. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
- "The day a nation cried". BBC Sport. 24 April 2003. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
- "Kalusha reflects on tragedy". BBC Sport. 28 April 2003. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
- Piers Edwards (March 2010). "The struggle of African coaches". BBC Sport Blogs.
- As of June 2010, Norway was still the only country in the world never to be beaten by Brazil, having beaten the South Americans twice and drawn once.
- The record for most goals scored at the World Cup with all different goal scorers and no own goals is 7, set by the Soviet Union in 1982. Teams to score six from six players are Italy in 1954, Belgium in 1990, and Nigeria in 1998.
- Teranga is the Wolof word for 'hospitality'.
- "Togo match goes ahead after row". BBC Sport. 19 June 2006.
- "Interview with Match-Fixing Investigator Declan Hill: 'I Am Sure the Game Was Manipulated'". Spiegel Online. 1 September 2008.
- "FA denies match-fixing reports". Ghana Football Association. 2 September 2008.
- Fletcher, Paul. "Uruguay 1–1 Ghana (4–2 pens)". BBC Sport. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
- "Ghana records best World Cup ranking". ghanafa.org (Ghana Football Association (GFA)). 13 July 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- "Egypt keep Cup hopes alive". BBC Sport. 13 July 2001. Retrieved 2010-06-10.
- FIFA Fact Sheet: History of the FIFA World Cup (TM) Preliminary Competition (by year) (44 page PDF document)