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Five Reasons African Countries Have Never Won The World Cup

There have been many great African football teams. Some of the best players in the world come from the motherland, which begs the question, why do African teams always underperform at the World Cup?

Several reasons have contributed to African teams consistently underperforming at the World Cup, and we will explore five of them, but this is not to give the wrong impression about African teams. 

Since the inception of the World Cup in 1930, all the winners have either been European or South American, which tells you it’s not just Africans underperforming. However, there it is still alarming that no African team has ever made it past the quarter-finals. 

1. FINANCE

It’s not surprising that a continent known internationally for a high level of poverty would have money issues, even in the secluded bubble of the football world where there seems to be a lot of money in circulation. 

African teams regularly deal with disputes between the players, coaches, and football associations over salaries and bonuses just before and sometimes during major tournaments, including the World Cup.

Cameroon players famously refused to fly to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup until Cameroon paid their bonuses, not surprising that they crashed out at the group stage.

Ghanaian players took it a step further by refusing to train and threatening to boycott their crucial final group stage game against Portugal Ghana FA paid them. They then went on to lose the game and crash out when a win would have seen them progress.

The days of playing for national pride has passed in African football. It’s all about money now, but the players can’t take all the blame here. Corrupt officials are the main cause of the financial issues faced by African teams.

2. STRUCTURE 

There’s not a lot separating Africans from Europeans and South Americans in terms of talent. Ivory Coast’s famous golden era could rival the very best teams in the world, so what is the problem? A lack of a  proper football structure.

The best teams in the world plan ahead. They build a team of the best players in their respective countries using academies and subsequent age-grade competitions, something that Africans have failed to implement so far.

A good example is Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning squad, which saw six players from the squad that won the U-21 Euros in 2009 play a significant part in winning them the World Cup just five years later.

Jeremy Boateng, Mesut Ozil, Mats Hummels, Manuel Neuer, Sami Khedira, and Benedikt Howedes all played key roles for Die Mannschaft as they conquered the U-21 Euros in 2009 and then the world in Brazil 2014, the kind of progression we rarely see in African teams.

Despite the abundance of talent, most African teams lack chemistry, and it’s evident in how they play. They skip the years of work it takes to put together a reliable team and just select the best individual players they have scattered around the world and put them all together just before the World Cup, always a recipe for disaster. 

3. LACK OF CONFIDENCE 

It seems weird to suggest that a group of professional footballers lack confidence, but the evidence seems to back up this school of thought.

After many years of failure at the World Cup, you almost get the impression that African players just feel lucky to even be playing at the World Cup. No confidence to be competitive, forever the underdogs, despite playing against their counterparts from club football.

A good example is Ghana’s 2010 World Cup campaign, which almost saw them make history and become the first African team to play in the semi-finals but were knocked out by Uruguay on penalty shootouts.

Ask any African, and they’ll tell you Ghana was denied by Luis Suarez’s handball when the striker blocked a goal-bound header with his hand. However, in truth, the Uruguayan striker was punished with a red card, and the Black Stars rewarded with a golden opportunity. 

A penalty in the last minute of extra time which would have sent Ghana through was blazed over by Asamoah Gyan, seeing a bitter end to a game that been dominated by the Ghanaians.

Another example of a general lack of confidence in crucial moments of World Cup games was the game between Nigeria and Argentina at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The Super Eagles were tied at 1-1 with less than 10 minutes to play, a result that would have seen them advance to the Round of 16 and knocked out Argentina. However, a display of nervousness from the coach and the players cost them, and the Argentines scored and progressed.

4. COACHING 

Not to perpetuate an unfair stereotype, but African players have a track record of indiscipline, primarily when a locally based coach is leading the team of mostly foreign-based players.

Most of the time, the coaches struggle to contain and control the enormous egos of these players, leaving the coaches in a bad spot and hurting the team spirit in the camp.

It’s no coincidence that the three most successful World Cup campaigns of African teams, Cameroon in Italia 90′, Senegal in Korea/Japan 2002, and Ghana in South Africa 2010 were all overseen by foreign coaches.

To be fair to the local coaches, the desire to win is there, but they lack ambition, they rarely see the bigger picture and are in a hurry to get a win. Hence the over-dependence on the so-called professional players, ignoring other viable options in the process. 

Football associations in Africa have resorted to foreign-based coaches, showing absolutely no faith in the home-based coaches, a trend which is a problem in itself.

While it’s clear to see that some foreign coaches are indeed better than the local ones, these guys get appointed, and it’s merely a job for them. Even if they fail, they get their huge salaries and move on to the next post.

No sense of national pride, no passion, no togetherness, just tactics which have proven not enough, nothing will ever change if this continues.

5. ADMINISTRATION 

One can guess the last reason, and, without a doubt, the biggest problem of African teams is in the administration. 

The people in charge of most Football Associations in Africa are clueless and corrupt; a lot of them know nothing about football and are in those positions to serve their own personal interests.

From meddling with team selections to tampering with funds meant for the upkeep of players, the rap sheet of African football administrators is very long.

It’s always about politics and never about football. Which ironically should be their priority, there’s always fighting within the FAs about power.

The solution would be for more ex-internationals to replace politicians in running African football. That way, we have people that actually know what they are doing in charge, and you can be sure they will put the needs of the players first.

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