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World Cup Afri Can

by Lesley Ngwa
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After Nigeria’s super eagles elimination from the USA 94′ world cup in the round of 16 on the 5th of July 1994 at the Foxboro stadium in Boston, losing 1:2 to Italy’s squadra Azzuris, a United States daily captured it this way “WORLD CUP AFRICAN’T”

Emmanuel “the ammunition” Amuneke (CAF player of the year that year) had shot the super eagles into a 27th minute lead, but Roberto Baggio (FIFA player of the year 1993) broke Nigerians and Africans heart with an 88th minute back breaking equaliser and went on to score a winner in extra time.

It has remained a mirage for Africa to hoist football’s biggest diadem since her first participation through Egypt Pharaohs in 1934 in Italy.

Les Aiglen Carthage (the Carthage eagles) of Tunisia won Africa’s first world cup game in Argentina 78′ beating Mexico’s El Tri color (the three colours) 3:1, the Tunisians parading then the 1977 African player of the year in goalkeeper and skipper Tarek Dhiab. The Desert “‘Fennec” Foxes from the “Oasis” of Algeria went a step ahead in Espana 82′

The Algerians stunned the soccer watching world on the 12th of June 1982 in Gijon, beating favourites, the Mannshaft of Germany 2:1, they also pipped Peru 3:2 but lost out in the classification game to England 2:0, even if Germany and Austria were alleged to have played an accord draw to push Algeria out, then Cameroon’s Lions indomitable also came out unbeaten from that world cup with draws against Peru, Poland and eventual winners Italy to exit the group stage.

Algeria paraded skipper Ali Fergani, Larkhdar Belloumi (CAF player of 1981), Rabah Madjer (CAF player of 1987), goalkeeper Drid Naseriddin amongst others, while Cameroon had Abega Theophile (CAF player of 1984 now late), Roger Milla (CAF player of 1976 & 1990), zestful goalkeeper Thomas Nkono (CAF player of that year 82′ & 1979), Emmanuel Kunde, goalkeeper Antoine Bell to mention a few.

Then came the mercurial lions from the atlas and Himalaya highlands of Morocco in Mexico 86′ they emerged the first African side to cross the first round hurdle, after draws against Poland and England, they dissected Portugal 3:1 to reach the round of 16 before bowing out to the eventual runners up Germany, that Moroccan team had CAF players of the year 1985 & 86 respectively, Mohammed Timoumi and the zestful goalkeeper and captain Badou El Zaki, there were also Abdoulaziz Boudabela, Merry Krimou, Mustapha El Biyaz, Abdourazak Khiari (who got a brace against Portugal) and the likes.

The lions from the Cameroonian highlands of Bamenda, the then kings of the African jungle, the pride of the black continent, the masters of the Nile roared to Africa’s first world cup quarter finals at Italia 90′ beating defending champions, Argentina’s Le Albiceleste (White & Sky blue) 1:0 in the opening game on the 8th of June 1990 at the Giuseppe Meazza in Milan, they lost controversially to England 3:2 in the last eight.

Aside Milla, Nkono, Kunde earlier mentioned, there were Ndip Akem, Mbouh Emille, Cyril Makanarky, Mfede Louis, late Massing Benjamin, skipper Stephen Tattaw in that famous squad.

Senegal’s lions of the Teranga (merciful lions) from the nervy caves of Zinghachor and Ghana’s black stars from the Cape Coast galaxies also made the final 8 in Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010 losing to Turkey’s Ay-Yidziker (the Crescent stars) 2:1 and Uruguay’s Le Celeste (Sky blue) on penalties respectively, while Senegal paraded the likes of El Hadji Diouf (CAF player of 2001 & 2002), late Pape Bouba Diop, Khalidou Fadiga, Aliuo Cisse, goalkeeper Tony Sylva, Salif Diao amongst others, Ghana paraded Africa’s leading world cup goal scorer Asamoah Gyan (with 6 goals, Milla is next with 5 and Ahmed Musa from Nigeria with 3), they also had in their ranks then Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari, goalkeeper Richard Kingston, Andre Ayew, Kevin Prince Boeteng, John Mensah, Kwadoo Asamoah, Sebastian Adiyah ( the first and only African to win the MVP and top scorer in the FIFA U-20 world cup in 2009).

Nigeria’s super eagles are the third African side after Algeria (1982) and Cameroon (1990) to win two successive (straight) group games at the world cup in France 98′ (beating Spain & Bulgaria respectively) and reached the round of 16 both in USA 94′ and France 98’ players like Abdulrashidi Abdulyekini, Samson Siasia, Sunday Oliseh, Austin Okocha, captain fantastic, Stephen Keshi, Uche Okechukwu, Daniel Amokachi, Finidi George, Emmanuel Amuneke, Mutiu Adepoju, Austin Eguaveon and the mercurial “rock of Gibraltar” in Nigeria’s goal, Peter Rufai were some players in that golden generation. So can Africa win the world cup for the first time in Qatar 2022? Only time will tell.

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