Five nations including Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria were on Friday drawn in various groups for the group stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup as Africa’s representatives.
Following the group stage draws at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on Friday, Egypt was placed in Group A against Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, and host nation Russia.
The ‘Pharaohs’ are entering the competition for the third time since they last appeared 27 years ago. They made their first appearance in the competition in 1934 after becoming the first African team to play in the World Cup finals and made their comeback in 1990.
Egypt will go into next year’s World Cup as one of Africa’s top performing sides. They made a strong case in Group E during the qualifiers after emerging as group winners ahead of Uganda, Ghana and Congo. The Pharaohs will hope to cruise past Round One, having finished at the bottom of Group F in 1990.
Africa’s next representative – Morocco, are returning to the international competition since they last participated in 1998. Morocco was placed in Group B along with Iran, Portugal and Spain.
The ‘Atlas Lions’ find themselves in a difficult group like their fellow African teams. Like any group in the competition, Africa’s representatives need a goal-scoring attacking force, a distributive and creative midfield, and of course an unfriendly defense.
The remaining three African teams Senegal, Nigeria and Tunisia were placed in Group H, Group D and Group G respectively.
In Group H, Senegal was paired against Japan, Colombia and Poland. The Teranga Lions will have to show some class as they did during their debut appearance in the World Cup in 2002.
As debutants in the competition 15 years ago, Senegal became the second African team to reach the quarterfinals. They defeated France, then defending champions, collected a point each against Denmark and Uruguay and subsequently edged out Sweden in the Round of 16 before a late 94th minute goal from Lihan Mansih of Turkey ended the West African nation’s journey in Japan 2002.
For Nigeria, they were drawn against Argentina, Croatia and debutants Iceland. Next year’s World Cup will record the Super Eagles’ sixth appearance. Their best result out of previous appearances was the Round of 16. In 2014, France became the stumbling block for the Super Eagles after a Paul Pogba and a Joseph Yobo own goal ended their World Cup campaign in Brazil.
In Group G, Tunisia was paired against European sides, Belgium and England, and Central American side Panama that is making their debut. Tunisia have appeared in the finals of the FIFA World Cup on four occasions, the first being at the 1978 FIFA World Cup. Unfortunately, the ‘Eagles of Carthage’ have never crossed the group stage. They last played in the competition in 2006.
Finally, since the inaugural tournament of the FIFA World in 1930, no African nation has reached the semifinals of the international competition, not to mention winners. The best result from African nations in the tournament was in the 1990, 2002 and 2010 editions after Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana respectively advanced to the quarterfinals.
The past 21 editions of the competition have come and gone. Many Africans always rally their support around the team that bridges the gap by advancing to the latter stages of the competition, as was done for Ghana in 2014. Next year’s edition in Russia is another opportunity for African nations; and the hope of Africa is rested on the shoulders of Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria