African football made some major strides at the world stage in the past and it’s time to reminisce on some moments of glory in the continent’s football prowess on the world stage in those days. African football has blossomed over the years and the majority of the football heavyweights in Africa have played a major part in its significance recently and in the past.
However, we are more interested in the exploits of these African heavyweights in international competitions across major age grades. The likes of Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, and Algeria have put smiles on the faces of Africans worldwide. We’ll be taking a look at a few significant and exciting moments from the past and recently, due to the exploits of these teams in international competitions.
ALGERIA produced what has been described as unarguably the biggest shock in world football as they beat the then West Germany in the 1982 World Cup by 2 goals to 1. A game in which they had no chance on paper and in expert opinions. It was such a mismatch that the Germans entertained themselves in the pre-match conference by saying they would dedicate their seventh goal in the game to their wives, and the eighth to their dogs. One of the Germans had reportedly said he would arrive the pitch and play with a cigar in his mouth. Even the manager Jupp Derwell said he refused to play a video of the Algerian team for his players, as they would have laughed him to scorn. However, a surprise awaited them. Rabah Madjer opened the scoring in the 54th minute and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge equalized in the 64th minute. The winner was provided by Belloumi to send shivers down the spines of the Germans and give the Algerians a major win. The tournament ended on a sad note due to reports of suspected match fixing between Austria and West Germany which led FIFA to rule that last games in groups be played simultaneously.
CAMEROON being inspired by a 38-year-old Roger Milla, who had been recalled from retirement ably represented African football at the world stage in the Italy 1990 world cup, as they unexpectedly and surprisingly beat defending champions, Argentina by a lone goal which was scored by Francois Omam-Biyik in a jam-packed San Siro stadium. A result that shook the footballing world as they were given no chance against an Argentine side that paraded the great Diego Maradona. They also ended the game with 9 men on the pitch. Cameroon eventually won the group and progressed further till the quarter-finals where they were eliminated by England in a very close encounter
A Rigobert Song led Cameroon also upset Brazil with a 1:0 win in the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup tournament courtesy of a screamer from Samuel Eto’o. They went on to the finals and lost to France. The tournament where they lost Marc-Vivien Foe of blessed memory. RIP
NIGERIA produced a major upset in the France 98 world cup as they beat Spain 3:2 in a very entertaining encounter. The Spaniards had led the game on two occasions before a rocket of a goal by Sunday Oliseh in the 77th minute from well outside the eighteen-yard box, that gave Zubizaretta no chance, hit the net to secure the win and send the African continent into mad excitement.
Nigeria also made a major impact in the Atlanta 96 Olympic tournament as they won the first ever Olympic gold in football for Africa with a 3:2 win over Argentina in the finals. This was preceded by a dramatic 4:3 comeback win over the Brazilians where Nwankwo Kanu, the Nigerian golden boy emerged. Many folks still think that game was the final because of the celebration that followed after the game. The whole nation and Africa were thrown into excitement as Nigeria sealed the win in extra time to reach the finals where they beat Argentina.
SENEGAL also made a case for themselves as they unexpectedly beat defending champions France in the opener of the 2002 world cup by a lone goal. A game in which the African debutants were expected to be routed by their French opposition. A nice piece of skill and cross from El-Hadji Diouf down the wings resulted in the goal by Papa Bouba Diop, and one of the best and most unique goal celebrations in football. A dance around the goal scorer’s shirt
GHANA represented Africa as debutants in the 2006 world cup and restored pride to African football as they unexpectedly thrashed a top 2 FIFA rated Czech Republic by 3 goals to nil against all odds. The Ghanaians had lost their first game to Italy and were expected to be thrashed by the Czechs. The likes of Stephen Appiah, Asamoah Gyan and co had other ideas.
The Ghanaians ably represented the continent in 2009 in the under 20 world cup hosted by Egypt, by being the first and only African country to win the tournament. They faced a multi-talented Brazilian side in the finals, parading the likes of Douglas Costa, Texeira, Ganso and co. The Ghanaians went down to 10 men but still continued undeterred, and beat the Brazilians on penalties to win the trophy. A big win for the African continent.
We hope the glory days of African football at world level return soonest.