Johannesburg – And then there were two! Africa must feel disappointed that there are only two of their initial five representatives remaining in the World Cup.
With African teams finishing runners-up or not making it out of their groups at previous World Cups, Morocco broke that streak in Qatar.
The Atlas Lions beat the odds to top Group F, after bagging seven points. And that was the second time they topped their group after 1986’s efforts.
In qualifying for the knockout stage, they were joined by African champions Senegal, who wil be proud of their efforts after missing star Sadio Mane.
Senegal and Morocco will know that they still have a lot of work to do as they’ll face England and Spain on Sunday and Tuesday respectively in the last 16.
But qualifying for the quarter-finals at a World Cup should be far from being an achievement for Africans, given how close Ghana came to being in the semis in 2010.
The Black Stars failed in their pursuit after losing to Uruguay in the quarter-final on penalty shoot-outs, thanks to Luis Suarez’s handball late in extra time.
Ghana, unfortunately, failed to avenge that defeat and progress to the last 16 in Qatar, as they lost 2-0 to the Uruguayans on Friday.
Ghana’s exit was painful in that it resulted in the resignation of coach Otto Addo, who will now focus on his duties as Borussia Dortmund’s assistant coach.
Despite the loss, though, Ghana should be proud of their efforts. They unearthed a sensation in Mohammed Kudus.
After his exploits, Kudus is said to be on the radar of top European clubs such as Barcelona, who will be closely monitoring him at Ajax Amsterdam.
After the Ghana’s exit, Africa’s next bet was on Cameroon. But boy, they endured another “so close and yet so far” moment after beating Brazil 1-0 on Friday.
Yes, the Rigobert Song-coached team achieved the improbable to become the first African tean to beat the record five-time world champions in the group stage.
Kudos should go to Vincent Aboubakar for that win. The Indomitable Lions captain scored in stoppage time to earn his nation, and Africa, a famous win.
Aboubakar got a red card for taking off his shirt in celebration, given that it was his second bookable offence. But who cared? He, Song and Africa didn’t.
And that’s why, after his goal, a lot of people were interested in why Song started Aboubakar from the bench in the two opening games.
Well, that remains a mystery. But the World Cup was taxing for many a nation that had to call-up players who were injured.
But if it was not that, some nations just had a knack of benching their best players. How do you explain why Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri only made cameos?
Khazri has been Tunisia’s best player for some time. And he duly proved his worth in Qatar, scoring the only goal in their win over defending champions France.
But that strike wasn’t enough to see them progress to the last 16, adding misery for Africans, who now have only Morocco and Senegal to rely on.