African sides have caused upsets at previous World Cups, but nothing compares to what Morocco have achieved in the 2022 edition in Qatar despite finishing fourth.
Morocco saw off a star-studded Belgium in the group stages, then eliminated Spain in the knockout stages before beating Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the quarterfinals. These are teams ranked in the world’s top ten according to the latest FIFA rankings. In doing so, the Atlas Lions became the first African team to reach the semifinals.
Cameroon stunned champions Argentina in the first match of the 1990 World Cup in Italy and advanced to the quarter-finals, while Senegal upset France when they started their title defense in 2002.
Algeria’s 1-0 win against West Germany in 1982 was also one of the most shocking results in world cup sports history.
For the rest of the Africa, though, the region’s successes in the showpiece event have been limited, which is why long-serving Confederation of African Football head Issa Hayatou has placed a lid on his members’ aspirations for extra seats in the finals.
Morocco coach Walid Regragui, 47, claimed before of the semifinal clash against France that all they wanted was to win and rewrite the African continent’s history at the World Cup.
Walid Regragui has only been in charge of the Atlas Lions for three months, but his influence on the squad he took over from Vahid Halilhodzic is evident.
Morocco won four of its five World Cup games, drawing one against fellow semi-finalists Croatia, and their unbeaten streak now stands at ten games since June 2022.
The game against France was the thirteenth encounter between “Les Bleus” and the “Atlas Lions”. France had won seven of their prior meetings, while Morocco had won 2-1 in the first encounter in 1963, with two other games ending in draws.
Morocco’s rock strong defense has been a key component so far, as they went nearly eight hours of football at the 2022 World Cup without conceding a goal. Theo Hernandez was the first player to score a goal against the North Africans in the World Cup when they lost 0-2 to France in the finals on Tuesday.
Egypt was the first African country to feature in the World Cup in 1934, under the stewardship of Scottish coach James McCrae, but they were eliminated after one game, losing 4-2 to Hungary in Naples.
When the World Cup restarted after WWII, much of Africa was still under colonial authority, but as countries secured independence, CAF membership grew and Africa began to show its might.
The continent skipped the 1996 World Cup in England in protest over the refusal to award Africa a place in the 16-team finals (African teams had to compete for one slot with teams from Asia and Oceania) and to protest apartheid South Africa’s participation in the qualifiers.
Morocco represented Africa in Mexico 1970, finishing bottom of the group after holding Bulgaria to a draw in their last game.
Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was mocked in 1974 after losing all three group games, including a 9-0 defeat to Yugoslavia. Zaire’s Yugoslav coach Blagoje Vidinic took off his goalkeeper after seeing his side go down 4-0 after just 22 minutes.