A page of history was written with Morocco and Senegal which qualified for the round of 2014. If Morocco beats Spain, the level of XNUMX will be exceeded.
For Africa, having several teams that exceed the group stage to reach the round of XNUMX of a World Cup is an important step. The remarkable result of Men's World Cup of Fifa 2022 in Qatar – which saw the Senegal and Morocco access the phase to direct elimination – is Africa's best World Cup performance since 2014. That year, Nigeria and Algeria had both reached the round of 2018. It's a heartening performance after a dismal XNUMX World Cup where none of the African representatives made it past the group stage.
Qualification to the round of XNUMX is an important step, but what could be even more sustainable is more teams reaching the quarter-finals. Senegal's hopes were dashed by a Round of XNUMX loss to England. Previously, three African teams reached the quarter-finals: in 1990 (Cameroon), 2002 (Senegal) and 2010 (Ghana).
However, two African teams have never reached this stage in the same World Cup. Could 2022 be the right year?
Currently, the remarkable performance of the Tunisia gives an indication. Tunisia did not make it past the first round but their victory over reigning world champions France 1-0 is a story in itself. It was France's only loss in the first round.
Cameroon has also shown that it has the necessary courage to surprise Brazilian favourites. They narrowly lost their place in the round of XNUMX as Switzerland beat Serbia to edge them.
But the real story is yet to come. Can Senegal and Morocco qualify for the finals? Moroccan manager Walid Regragui clearly thinks so. He told the media:
We are going to be very difficult to beat… I think the African teams can go far. Why wouldn't we dream of winning the World Cup?
The ranking problem
Africa's performances in 2022 highlight a lingering World Cup problem: the rankings. The ranking provided by the world football body, Fifa, has been a bone of contention for years. Notably in its use of coefficients – a system based on past scores that is used to rank the collective performance of teams. This system then determines the number of places allocated to each continent or region at the World Cup. Currently, the coefficients favor European and South American teams to the detriment of teams from other regions of the world.
This is not an effective method of assessing the strength of national teams, as the ranking system assigns coefficients based on the performance of the best teams in a continental confederation (such as the African Football Confederation). It makes more sense to assign coefficients according to the position in the Fifa ranking rather than according to the results of the confederations.
For example, teams ranked from 1 to 50 receive the same coefficient, regardless of their confederation. This prevents weak teams from certain confederations from benefiting from the performance of strong teams from their confederation. Currently, top teams from weaker confederations are at a disadvantage as their wins are affected by lower coefficients in the calculation of points achieved in the ranking equation.
A turning point
Beyond qualifying for the quarter-finals, the performance of the African representatives in Qatar suggests an important turning point indicating that the continent can sustainably compete with the best teams in the world.
Although Fifa has periodically made changes to its ranking system, this World Cup has once again challenged that system.
It's not so much the fact that Morocco, ranked 22nd, finish their group in first position ahead of Belgium and Croatia who were ranked well before them, but the fact that the worst performing teams in Europe benefit from these coefficients. while they are weaker than the best teams in regions with lower coefficients.
For example, teams like Serbia and Wales each received higher ranks than Morocco, Ghana and Japan, who solidly outclassed them.
But what do the 2022 matches indicate? First, it is increasingly clear that Africa deserves the nine-spot boost they get for the next World Cup in the United States in 2026.
Currently, Africa has five places, but the competition is usually fierce for these places and several top African teams have failed to qualify because of this. Among these teams are Algeria, Egypt, Ivory Coast and Nigeria, who have already won the Africa Cup of Nations and have always been among the best African teams over the past few years.
Close the gap
Another thing that is clear in Qatar is that the Bosman judgment, which opened up the transfer of footballers between clubs and countries, has helped accelerate the development of football talent globally. It expanded the scope and distribution of technical football development. This has narrowed the gap between the haves and have-nots in world football. For example, theFootball Observatory of the CIES International Center for Sports Studies) notes the migration of a large number of talents from all over the world, including from Africa, to the “big five” European championships. These talents are returning from Europe to represent their home country at the World Cup.
A new source of talent for African countries at the World Cup is footballers born in Europe, in particular, to African parents or who are otherwise eligible to play for African countries. Many of these footballers are increasingly declaring their eligibility to play for African nations and their impact in competitions like the World Cup is particularly evident in 2022.
Ultimately, the African teams present at the World Cup prove that they deserve their places in the concert of nations.