Africa’s Shot At The Trophy: Who Will Do Best In Russia
FIFA fever has well and truly infected us all and we’re ready to see the world’s best go head-to-head. With only five African nations qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it’s safe to say we’re the underdogs.
Luckily, teams seem to be playing some of the best soccer their countries have ever seen. And it helps that they’re filled with some serious star power.
So, whether you’re taking bets with your mates or you just want to know which team to support, we’ve gathered all the stats to help you make the right decision:
If you’re a betting man, chances are you’re going to go with Nigeria. They’ve been hailed as Africa’s best shot at a World Cup win by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). And it’s not just because their kit has become a sensation amongst fans, selling out in shops worldwide. They’ve got a damn impressive lineup.
Star Players: Their captain and UEFA Champions League winner John Mikel (Chelsea), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal player), Ahmed Musa (on loan at CSKA Moscow from Leicester City) and Kelechi Iheanacho (former Manchester City player, currently with Leicester City)
World Cup Appearances: 5, the most appearances out of all the African nations.
Coach: Gernot Rohr, was a defender for Bayern Munich and is one of the most experienced coaches in Africa. He’s been with the Nigerian team since August 2016 and saw to it they qualified for Russia before any other African outfit.
Competition: Group D—up against Argentina, Croatia and Iceland.
FIFA World Ranking: 48 – the lowest ranking of all the African nations who qualified for the 2018 World Cup.
If you’re even remotely interested in football, and we’re going to take a guess and say you are, then you know the name Mohamed Salah. Yes, most people are putting great faith in Egypt, or rather Salah.
But don’t get ahead of yourselves; he was left in tears when he sustained a serious shoulder injury during the Champions League final this year. So the jury (and coach) is still out on whether he’ll even play.
Star Players: Mohamed Salah is undoubtedly the star of the Pharaohs. He scored 43 goals in his debut season for Liverpool and has won a whole host of awards this year including African Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Month.
World Cup Appearances: 2 (1934 and 1990); they had a 56 year break between their first and second appearance and this year will be their third appearance after an almost three decade absence.
Coach: Héctor Raúl Cúper has been with Egypt since March 2015 and coached them all the way to the 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final, where they lost to Cameroon. Cúper has got the country singing his praises after he ended their 28-year World Cup drought – maybe there’s more magic to come?
Competition: Group A—up against Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay.
FIFA World Ranking: 45 – better than Nigeria.
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This team has a tough group of countries to come up against in the first round. But Morocco secured a 2-0 victory over Ivory Coast to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. So they’re certainly used to tough competition. Who knows? They might make it through and surprise us all.
Star Players: Medhi Benatia (Bayern Munich and Juventus player) is one of Africa’s finest defenders.
World Cup Appearances: 4—last appearing in 1998.
Coach: Herve Renard is one of the most well-respected coaches out there, having been the first coach to lead different countries to win the AFCON. He’s been with Morocco since 2016. Let’s hope the French coach can help Morocco outplay two of Europe’s best teams – both ranked in the top 10.
Competition: Group B—up against Iran, Spain and Portugal (YIKES!)
FIFA World Ranking: 41– better than Nigeria and Egypt.
We’re unsure about Tunisia and their performance could go either way. They’ve got the best ranking of all the African nations who qualified but they’ve lost all three of their last friendlies. What is impressive, however, is that they came back from 2 goals down to draw 2-2 with Portugal (ranked 4th) a couple weeks ago. So they could surprise us all.
Star Players: Wahbi Khazri, FIFA has said he enjoyed his best season of his career in the 17/18 French Ligue 1 so he’s fired up and ready to go.
World Cup Appearances: 4– consistent qualifiers, they’ve played in the World Cup in 1978, 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Coach: Nabil Maaloul holds Tunisia close to his heart; he played for them in the 80s and 90s. Maaloul led Esperance to the win the CAF Champions League title and has been the Tunisian coach since April 2017.
Competition: Group G—up against Belgium, Panama and England.
FIFA World Ranking: 21 – the best ranking of all the African nations that qualified for the tournament.
This team is our wildcard but they’re somewhat of a winning wildcard. They’re the least experienced of all the African Nations to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. But what can we say? We love an underdog.
Star Players: Sadio Mane became the most expensive African player in 2016 when he moved to Liverpool for just under 600 million rand. You don’t fork out that amount of cash for someone who isn’t a skilled, star player.
World Cup Appearances: 1– in 2002 where they made the quarter-finals.
Coach: Aliou Cisse captained Senegal when they made their debut in 2002 and reached the quarter finals. He’s been the coach of Senegal since 2015 and is clearly a force to be reckoned with as his team was unbeaten in the African qualifiers.
Competition: Group H—up against Poland, Colombia and Japan.
FIFA World Ranking: 27; better than Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt.