There have been few editions of the World Cup that have caught the imagination like the tournament that we witnessed in Qatar at the end of 2022. The final epitomized that, with France and Argentina going toe-to-toe for 120 minutes, with neither side giving in.
However, it was ultimately Argentina, and Lionel Messi, that captured World Cup glory, as they managed to keep their nerve from the penalty spot. But, one of the continents that over-achieved in Qatar throughout the World Cup was Africa, as a piece of history was made with Morocco becoming the first nation from the continent to reach the final four.But, how did the African nations fare, and what will be their targets for the next 12 months?
There is little denying that the African success at the World Cup rests on the shoulders of Morocco. The team was excellent from the first minute of the 2022 World Cup and surpassed all expectations to top a very competitive Group F, including Croatia and Belgium.
Things wouldn’t get any easier for Morocco in the knockout round, as they were listed as the huge outsiders with sports betting sites at www.paridirect.com ahead of their round of 16 tie against Spain. However, the African nation defended excellently and eventually went through after keeping their calm from the penalty spot.
History awaited in the quarterfinals, as Morocco looked to become the first African nation to ever reach the final four. After a thrilling showdown with Portugal, they achieved that feat with Youssef En-Nesyri scoring the crucial winner. However, their dream run would come to an end in the final four, as they were edged out by France. They also ended the competition with a defeat against Croatia, but a fourth-place finish remains the best result by an African nation in World Cup history.
The only other African nation to make it out of the group stage was Senegal. The reigning AFCON champions appeared to have one of the more straightforward groups, as a battle for second was virtually between themselves and Ecuador. Senegal easily recorded a 3-1 win against Qatar on matchday two to set up a winner-take-all showdown with Ecuador in the final round of fixtures.
It was Senegal that excelled in that fixture, as they ran out deserved 2-1 winners following goals from Ismalia Sarr and Kalidou Koulibaly. In the round of 16, Senegal came up against England in Al Khor, but they were easily beaten by a confident Three Lions to bring the African nation’s World Cup dream to an end.
Tunisia, Cameroon & Ghana Fail To Qualify
There wasn’t to be any further African joy from the remaining teams representing the continent, as Tunisia, Ghana, and Cameroon all failed to make it out of their groups. Tunisia was slightly unfortunate, as they ended their campaign with a historic win against France. However, the result counted for very little following Australia’s win against Denmark in the final round of Group D games.
Cameroon exited the World Cup in a similar fashion, as they ended their campaign with one of their best-ever results. Vincent Aboubakar scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory against Brazil. However, they already faced a tough test following a 1-0 defeat against Switzerland and a thrilling 3-3 draw against Serbia. Still, a third-place finish in a competitive group was a fine showing.
Ghana likely would have been one of the more disappointed nations after the World Cup, as they put themselves into an excellent position to qualify after a 3-2 win against South Korea on matchday two. However, they couldn’t pick up the victory that they needed to reach the next round, as they were beaten by Uruguay.
What’s Next For African Nations?
As soon as the World Cup came to a close, nations were already looking ahead to the next major tournament in the diary. That will take place in early 2024, as the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations gets underway on January 5. The tournament was originally set to be held in the summer of 2023, but it was pushed back due to weather concerns in the summer months in the Ivory Coast.
Qualification for the major tournament will take place throughout this year, with many of the African nations only having played twice in their respective groups so far. The Ivory Coast is the only nation to have qualified at present, as they get that privilege as hosts. However, all of the main contenders will be targeting glory, as the start of qualification for the 2026 World Cup creeps into sight.