Africa’s biggest surprises at the World Cup

Africa’s five World Cup representatives in Qatar hope to make more history for the continent at the world’s showpiece event and prove their critics wrong after no team made it to the second round in Russia four years ago.

It will be a tall order for all of them, but they can look to the past for occasions when African nations have surprised and won shocking results in the finals.

Back to five of them.


It was already a surprise that Tunisia was Africa’s sole representative at the 1998 World Cup after failing to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations two years earlier.

They entered their opener against Mexico with low expectations around the team, and that was reinforced when they fell behind a first-half penalty.

But the second half was one of those occasions when it all came together and they rallied to earn a 3-1 success, goals from centre-back Ali Kaabi, defensive midfielder Nejib Ghommidh and right-back Mokhtar Dhouieb offering them the very first African World Cup. Cup victory.

They then lost 1-0 to Poland and drew 0-0 with West Germany, showing how competitive they were, but failed to qualify for the second round as they finished third in the pool.

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West Germany were one of the pre-tournament favorites in 1982 and were expected to rule out the Algerians, with one of their players telling the media that they would score seven or eight goals against their North African opponents. How wrong they were!

Algeria had a superb team of footballers who were comfortable on the ball and they raced around the Germans with Lakhdar Belloumi giving them the lead in the second half.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge equalized for the European team, but within a minute Algerian legend Rabah Madjer pulled his team back in front for a lead which they held until the end.

Algeria lost to Austria (0-2) and beat Chile (3-2), but the Germans and Austrians then conspired to manufacture a 1-0 victory for the first to place both teams in the next round.

It became known as the Disgrace of Gijón remains one of the worst examples of lack of sportsmanship in World Cup history.


When Nigeria made their debut at the 2994 World Cup, no one outside of Lagos or Abuja believed they would be top of their group at the end of the first round, especially with Argentina in the pool!

But they were set off by a stunning 3-0 victory over Bulgaria, which remains the biggest win by an African nation at the World Cup to date.

They were a superb Super Eagles team, brimming with talent and footballing intelligence. They opened their campaign at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, and it was a display that showcased all their quality as they overpowered the shocked Bulgarians, who had the legendary Hristo Stoichkov in their squad.

First-half goals from Rashidi Yekini and Daniel Amokachi put Nigeria on their way, before adding a third 10 minutes after the break via Emmanuel Amunike.

With the likes of Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George and Samson Siasia pulling the strings in midfield, they could easily see the game.

The Super Eagles narrowly lost their Round of 16 to eventual finalists Italy.


Cameroon fans were all in color and dancing at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and had plenty to celebrate as their side progressed to the quarter-finals before a 3-2 loss to England.

They set the tone in the opening match against Diego Maradona’s Argentina, who will become second in the competition.

Few expected the Indomitable Lions, with 38-year-old striker Roger Milla, to hold their own against the silky South Americans, but their rugged play and passion led to one of the club’s most famous wins. history of the World Cup.

It was the opening match played at the San Siro in Milan in front of 74,000 supporters, and despite two red cards for André Kana-Biyik and Benjamin Massing, it was Cameroon who came away with the victory.

The game’s only goal was scored by Francois Omam-Biyik midway through the second half and Cameroon held on for a most unlikely win.


Like Cameroon in 1990, Senegal had little luck opening the 2002 finals in South Korea and Japan against defending champions France.

Indeed, the French were many people’s favorites to retain the trophy and had a formidable squad that had evolved into a more impressive selection than those who had won at home four years previously.

Senegal were debuting with many players from the lower leagues in France, but had fire in their stomachs that day and deserved to win thanks to Papa Bouba Diop’s goal on the half hour mark.

In the end, France finished bottom of the pool and Senegal reached the quarter-finals, where they lost to Turkey 1-0 after beating Sweden in the previous round.

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