In just over 24 hours the 2018 Fifa World Cup commences in Russia, the 21st edition of the world’s single biggest sporting competition not named the Olympics.
As with recent world cups Africa would be represented by five countries, those who survived the gruelling qualification process to book a ticket to Russia.
The Pharaohs of Egypt, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, the Atlas Lions of Morocco and the Teranga Lions of Senegal are the five countries who would do battle in various groups and attempt to make their countries and the continent proud.
In Fifa World Cup history, an African country has never moved past the quarter final stage of the competition — only Ghana in 2010, Senegal in 2002 and Cameroon in 1990 has reached that stage before suffering heartbreaking elimination.
Thus the minimal goal for all these five countries would be reaching the quarter finals but can any of these five countries go one step further and reach the last four, the semi final stage, of the Fifa World Cup?
GhanaCelebrities.Com Managing Editor Godwin Nii-Armah Okine previews all five teams and their groups and assesses their chances at the mundial.
(in Group D with Argentina, Iceland & Croatia)
Coach: Gernot Rohr
Captain: Jon Obi Mikel
The Super Eagles of Nigeria have been almost universally anointed as Africa’s best chance at the mundial with a youthful and vibrant squad who have been playing some scintillating football under German manager Gernot Rohr.
Nigeria do indeed possess a talented squad, with world famous players such as captain Mikel and English based forwards Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho. They also have the distinction of being in one of the most balanced groups which gives them a good chance to qualify at least second behind world powerhouses Argentina.
Nigeria has a chance to equal their best ever world cup finish of a round of 16 place, but to do so it’s crucial to pick up points in their first game against an equally talented Croatian side.
Ghana’s eternal rivals certainly possess the ability to get out of this group, and a favourable Group C means a quarter final berth is more than possible, but I still see them eventually falling short.
Watch out for: Victor Moses
Projected finish: Group Stage
(in Group A with Russia, Uruguay & Saudi Arabia)
Coach: Hector Cuper
Captain: Essam El-Hadary
The Pharaohs of Egypt in 2017 became the first team to beat Ghana to World Cup qualification since we qualified to our first mundial in 2006. Egypt brought an end to a run of three consecutive world cup appearances for the Black Stars, in large part due to internal problems with the team’s organization which has become much clearer in recent days.
Egypt has a top heavy team with one of the world’s best players to count on in Mohammed Salah. They are also very difficult to break down defensively, being able to count on the vastly experienced 45 year old keeper and captain Essam El-Hadary as well as West Bromwich Albion’s defensive kingpin Ahmed Hegazy.
Egypt are also fortunate to fall into one of the easiest groups for an African nation with Uruguay the only traditional powerhouses in their group. Despite being hosts Russia are not particularly good and if they can deal with an injury nagging Salah Egypt should sail out of Group A.
Watch out for: Mo Salah
Projected finish: Round of 16
(in Group B with Portugal, Spain & Iran)
Coach: Herve Renard
Captain: Mehdi Benatia
Morocco are one of the best African teams out there and have a hugely experienced squad with arguably the best coach on the continent in Renard.
The Atlas Lions, as they are known, qualified for Russia by winning all games and without conceding a goal despite playing Ivory Coast twice. In Renard they have a manager who has twice won the African Cup of Nations and seems to be on a different level when managing African countries.
However, Morocco unfortunately fell into the toughest group for an African nation, having to contend with Spain and Portugal who are two of the best teams in the world.
Morocco have a solid group of players and an experienced coach but despite their tough group I pick them to cause the major upset of the tournament and go the furthest of any African nation.
Watch out for: Hakim Ziyech
Projected finish: Quarter finals
(in Group H with Poland, Colombia & Japan)
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Captain: Cheikhou Kouyaté
Aside Ghana and Cameroon, Senegal are the other African country who reached the last eight of the world cup, doing so in 2002 at their first ever tournament.
The Lions of Teranga are returning to try and do so once again, with an integral part of that 02′ team, Allou Cisse, now serving as their coach.
Senegal boasts of some of the best attacking talent on the continent. Aside Liverpoo’s Sadio Mane, who’s clearly their dangerman, they can count on Monaco’s Keita Balde, Torino’s M’baye Niang and Diafra Sakho of Rennes.
Senegal has a tough group but if they can get their attacking talent to gel, could get out and make the next round.
Still, I see them falling short.
Watch out for: Sadio Mane
Projected finish: Group stage
(in Group G with Belgium, Panama & England)
Coach: Nabil Maâloul
Captain: Wahbi Khazri
The Carthage Eagles are the least fancied of the African nations and also find themselves in a tough group. England are traditional powerhouses whilst Belgium possess one of the most talented squads in the entire tournament.
Tunisia had it rosy in qualifying after being placed in one of the easiest groups with the DRC, Libya and Guinea.
At the World Cup proper however, the level of competition is expected to go up and Tunisia would almost certainly fall short, becoming the third African side to fail to make the next round, per my estimation.
Watch out for: Wahbi Khazri
Projected finish: Group stage