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World Cup: Six times Africa’s best player didn’t qualify

4:22 AM IST 01/04/22
Mohamed Salah Egypt Senegal 2022 World Cup play-offs
With Mohamed Salah set to miss Qatar 2022, GOAL remember six times the continent’s best player missed the global showpiece

  • Samuel Eto'o, Olympics 2000, Cameroon

    Samuel Eto’o

    Having won the Africa Cup of Nations of 2000 and 2002, as well as reaching four consecutive World Cups between 1990 and 2002, Cameroon were firmly expected to reach the 2006 tournament.

    However, after being pitted in a nightmare qualifying group with Egypt and the Ivory Coast, the Indomitable Lions fell short, with Pierre Wome’s infamous missed penalty against the Pharaohs in Yaounde denying Cameroon a fifth consecutive appearance.

    It meant that Eto’o, African Footballer of the Year for three consecutive years between 2003 and 2005, missed out on the ’06 World Cup, denying the continent’s best player the opportunity to test himself again at the highest level.

    The striker netted 26 goals in La Liga during the 2005-06 campaign—winning both the Spanish title and the Champions League—but wasn’t able to follow that up at the World Cup.

  • George Weah

    George Weah

    Liberia great—and current president—Weah never tested himself at a World Cup, consequence of representing one of the continent’s all-time minnows.

    Weah did drag the Lone Stars to two Nations Cups—an outstanding achievement in itself—but the World Cup proved beyond the AC Milan legend.

    African Footballer of the Year in 1989, 1994 and 1994, he could arguably have been considered the continent’s finest when he sat out both the ’90 and certainly ’94 World Cup.

  • Salif Keita Saint-Etienne

    Salif Keita

    Africa’s first ever Footballer of the Year, Keita won the award in 1970—the first ever player to clinch the title.

    This year, he won a double in France with Saint-Etienne—clinching both the league and the Coupe de France—and finished the season with 21 league goals, having dovetailed superbly with Les Verts’ star man Herve Revelli.

    Keita could have starred at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, but Mali didn’t enter the qualifying campaign. The Eagles are still waiting for their first ever appearance at the tournament.

  • Karim Abdul Razak & Hicham El Amrani

    Karim Abdul Razak

    Abdul Razak won Africa’s Footballer of the Year award in 1978 during a magnificent year for him both with club and country.

    He was an African champion with Ghana’s Black Stars in 1978, with the West African giants defeating Uganda in the final.

    The Kumasi-born midfielder also won the Player of the Tournament award at the Nations Cup, and was a cup winner domestically with Asante Kotoko.

    Unfortunately, however, he missed out on the ’78 World Cup in Argentina, with Tunisia instead qualifying as Africa’s representatives as Ghana were halted by Guinea in qualification.

  • Ghana's Abedi Pele chases the ball during Ghana's 2-1 victory today at Port Elizabeth in the First round of the 1996 African Cup of Nations

    Abedi Pele

    One of the continent’s greatest all-time players and Africa’s star man—at times—during the late 80s and early 90s, Ayew never made it to the World Cup due to Ghana’s repeated failure to qualify.

    The Black Stars only made it to the tournament for the first time in 2006—several years after the veteran had hung up his boots—with the West African giants missing out repeatedly during his 16-year international career.

    Despite never reaching the World Cup, he did win the Africa Cup of Nations, Ligue 1 and the Champions League, and the icon will get to watch on at Qatar later this year as his sons—Andre and Jordan Ayew—attempt to scale the heights with Ghana.

  • Mohamed Salah Egypt 2021-22

    Mohamed Salah

    The latest player who can be considered the continent’s finest but who is primed to miss out on the World Cup is Liverpool superstar Salah.

    The Anfield forward is enjoying a magnificent season at club level, having earlier become the continent’s all-time top scorer in the Premier League, and could yet be in line to secure significant silverware at the end of the campaign.

    However, at international level, Salah is enduring a few months to forget, having been part of the Egypt side eclipsed by Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations final, before he missed a penalty on Tuesday as they were eliminated in the World Cup playoff by the Teranga Lions.