News Matches
World Cup

Remembering Africa’s biggest World Cup disappointments

4:37 PM GMT 13/11/2022
Africa's biggest World Cup disappointments
GOAL’s Ed Dove remembers the continent’s World Cup heartaches…this list is not for the faint-hearted!
  • cameroon 2002

    Cameroon’s Golden Generation

    In 2000 and 2002, Cameroon won the Africa Cup of Nations consecutively, the first African nation to do so since Ghana in the 1960s.

    Couple this with an Olympic gold medal in 2000, and there was genuine belief that Cameroon could achieve great things at the World Cup in 2002.

    However, failure to beat the Republic of Ireland in their opener, coupled with Ireland’s own heroic draw with Germany in Ibaraki, meant that the Indomitable Lions fell at the first hurdle during the World Cup of shocks.

  • Asamoah Gyan Ghana Uruguay 2010 World Cup

    Ghana vs Uruguay

    The closest Africa have ever came to reaching the semi-final, the Black Stars were—infamously—a handball away from making the final four in 2010.

    Luis Suarez denied Dominic Adiyiah’s goalwards header at the death in stoppage time, with Asamoah Gyan subsequently failing to convert the resulting penalty.

    Babyjet scored in the shootout, but Adiyiah and John Mensah missed, sending Uruguay to the semis at Ghana’s expense.

    Still to this day, the sense of injustice rankles with Black Stars supporters; can they make amends against Uruguay this year?

  • Didier Drogba Cristiano Ronaldo Ivory Coast Portugal

    Ivory Coast’s Golden Generation

    The second of four Golden Generations on this list, rarely have an African nation been able to pull together as much talent in one go as the Ivory Coast were able to between 2006 and 2014.

    Unfortunately, despite being able to boast the likes of the Toure brothers, Didier Drogba, Didier Zokora and Gervinho, the Elephants were unable to escape the group stage at three attempts.

    They’re unlikely to be able to call upon this same wealth of talent any time again in the future.

  • Zaire WM 1974

    Zaire 1974

    Unfairly ridiculed for their admittedly disastrous performance at the World Cup in West Germany in 1974, Zaire were actually one of Africa’s finest teams, and the first sub-Saharan African side to qualify for the tournament.

    They’d won the Nations Cup in 1968 and 1974, and reached the semis in 1972.

    It’s a massive shame that the world remembers them as the hapless outfit who were thoroughly outclassed against Brazil, Yugoslavia and even Scotland at the 1974 tournament.

  • NIGERIA 1998

    Nigeria in 1998

    Unlike Cameroon and Ivory Coast, Nigeria’s Golden Generation did enjoy a World Cup moment of their own—by reaching the knockouts in 1994.

    However, despite high expectations, they weren’t able to go one better in ’98, when they were utterly undone by a strong Denmark side in the Last 16, ultimately falling to a resounding 4-1 defeat.

    Driven forward by Jay-Jay Okocha, with Sunday Oliseh anchoring the midfield, and with talent such as Taribo West, Nwankwo Kanu, Finidi George and Daniel Amokachi, this side could have done so much more, but chopping and changing coaches, weaknesses in key areas, and an imbalance in the team ultimately meant the Eagles never realised their potential.

  • Salah Assad

    Algeria 1982

    In 1982, Algeria secured one of the greatest results in the history of the African game when they defeated West Germany in their opening fixture, before promptly following that up by dispatching Chile.

    Their progress to the knockouts appeared all but secure, only for a collusion between Germany and Austria in the final group game to lead to Algeria’s unjust elimination.

    The Fennecs deserved much better, and while Fifa changed the rules after the fixture—ensuring that all final group game matches were played at the same time to ensure that teams couldn’t play out non-competitive games for mutual convenience—it hardly helped Algeria.

  • Mohamed Aboutrika 2008

    Egypt’s Golden Generation

    The first ever team to win three consecutive Nations Cup tournaments, Egypt were utterly dominant between 2006 and 2010, as a generation of Pharaohs proved why the North Africans were the continent’s top dogs.

    Inspired by Mohamed Aboutrika, and backed up by a supporting cast including Wael Gomaa, Essam El-Hadary, Mohamed Barakat, Gedo, Emad Moteab and Mido, there were great hopes that the Pharaohs could have made a major impact at the World Cup.

    Ultimately—remarkably—they didn’t even qualify, falling short in the race to reach both the ’06 and the ’10 tournament.

    Their ill-tempered playoff defeat against Algeria in Sudan ahead of the 2010 competition was particularly heartbreaking, as was their playoff pummelling against Ghana four years later.

  • Salah Ramos Liverpool Real Madrid UCL final 2018

    Salah & Egypt

    The Pharaohs did eventually qualify for the World Cup in 2018—the first time since 1990—and fancied their chances of reaching the knockouts after being handed a favourable group.

    However, Egypt were unable to take any points from Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and hosts Russia, falling at the first hurdle with a miserable zero points.

    One big factor was the injury sustained by Mohamed Salah in the Champions League final at the hands of Sergio Ramos, which denied the Pharaohs their star man in their opener.

    Salah did subsequently feature, but despite scoring against both Russia and Saudi Arabia, was clearly short of full fitness.

  • Sadio Mane injured Bayern Munich 2022-23

    Sadio Mane?

    Is Mane set to become Africa’s latest World Cup heartbreak?

    Like his former teammate Salah, the forward suffered an injury ahead of the tournament, and is now a doubt to feature for Senegal at the World Cup.

    He’s been named in Aliou Cisse’s squad, but what will Mane be able to realistically achieve with Africa’s champions in Qatar?