It was not a dismal performance by Africa at the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar. Morocco, of course, was a marvellous story.
But Senegal, Ghana, Tunisia and Cameroon didn’t disgrace themselves on the field of play and the next World Cup promises to be a better one for the continent.
The Moroccan story in Doha has been told and recited over and over again. In fact outside of Argentina, no country created the sort of ripples the Atlas Lions generated on and off the pitch in Doha.
Coach Walid Regragui and his charges rewrote history by becoming the first African side to finish fourth at the Fifa World Cup, playing great football and winning hearts across continents. Morocco proved that Africa’s time has arrived now. Africa’s time is now.
Morocco went some way in exorcising the demons of Asamoah Gyan’s penalty miss in 2010 against Uruguay on that famous night at Soccer City where Ghana came within a whisker of becoming the first African side to reach the semi-finals of the Fifa World Cup.
But it was far from a poor showing from African sides at the World Cup. Cameroon became the first African country to beat Brazil at the Fifa World Cup with a performance of maturity and poise. That result will go a very long way in demystifying a complex that African sides suffered against the five-time champions.
Ghana were poor against Uruguay, with Andre Ayew missing a crucial penalty, but they scored a combined five goals in a controversial defeat to Portugal and stunning victory over South Korea. In Mohammed Kudus, they have a midfielder who could re- ally take the 2026 World Cup by storm.
The Ajax youngster, 22, was brilliant for the West Africans and has the makings of a future African Player of The Year. Tunisia were the only country to beat France in Qatar thanks to Wahbi Khazri’s goal but were harmed by their failure to score against Denmark and Australia.
It was not a shambolic performance at the World Cup by any measure and in stunning the defending champions, the Carthage Eagles likewise showed how far African sides have overcome the inferiority complex problem against the elite sides in world football.
Senegal’s World Cup almost effectively nose-dived once Sadio Mane was ruled out of the competition. It was a cruel blow to both Africa’s best player and the reigning African champions.
To their champions, they reached the second round after garnering six points in a group that had Netherlands, hosts Qatar and Ecuador. The Lions of Teran- ga were decidedly poor against England in the second round, but will have picked valuable lessons from their experience in Doha.
The next World Cup will see Africa take nine teams to the tournament to be hosted by Mexico, USA and Canada. Uganda has never competed at the World Cup but with nine slots up for grabs, it means that there is an outside chance of the continent’s lesser household countries to sneak through.
Source: The Observer