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24th June 2018

World Cup Kicks Off Today as Host Russia Take on Saudi. Are 5 African Teams Ready?

By Nkosinathi Shazi (14/06/18)

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is upon us, and although South Africa didn't qualify for the tournament, there is a strong African contingent in Russia.

 

In the one-month World Cup football festival, starting today as host Russia take on Saudi Arabia, 32 teams will play 64 games in the quest to be crowned the world champions. Of those 32 teams, five African teams will be vying to make history by becoming the first African side to win the prestigious trophy. (Photo: Nigeria's Super Eagles in Russia 2018).

An herculean task indeed as no African team has ever made it past the quarter-finals, so these teams will be hoping to make history in 2018 in Russia:


1. Nigeria: Nickname: Super Eagles, CAF Ranking: 7th, World Ranking: 48th


Making their sixth appearance in the 2018 tournament, the Super Eagles are arguably Africa's best chance of winning a World Cup - they come into the tournament as one the toughest sides in it and can be considered the dark horses.

Led by experienced captain John Obi Mikel, the Super Eagles will be banking on their seasoned players - who play their football abroad among the elite teams in Europe. Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (1994, 1998, 2014), Best player: Alex Iwobi.


2. Egypt: Nickname: Pharaohs, CAF Ranking: 5th, World Ranking: 45th


The Pharaohs will surprisingly be making only their third appearance in the World Cup. They come into the tournament as the most successful African nation in terms of continental titles, winning a record of seven African Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophies. (Photo: Egypt's captain and talisman Mohamed Salah).
 


They Egyptians will be playing in the World Cup for the first time in 28, years and will be buoyed by the fact that their mercurial player and worldwide star Mohammed Salah will be fit to play, after he suffered a shoulder injury in the 2018 Uefa Champions League Final in May.

Their credentials speak for themselves - Egypt will definitely be a team to look out for in Russia. Best World Cup finish: Group Stages (1934, 1990), Best player: Mohammed Salah.


3. Senegal: Nickname: Lions of Teranga, CAF Ranking: 2nd, World Ranking: 27th


The Lions of Teranga are playing in the World Cup for only the second time, but will be forever be remembered for their 2002 heroics - when they eliminated then-defending champions France and made it all the way to the quarter-finals.

This Senegalese team is something of an enigma, and will be an unpredictable side, spurred on by their Liverpool talisman Sadio Mane. Of course, from a South African point of view, Senegal will be playing at the expense of Bafana Bafana — after eliminating us in the qualifiers in 2017. Best World Cup finish: Quarter-final (2002), Best player: Sadio Mane.


4. Morocco: Nickname: Lions of the Atlas, CAF Ranking: 4th, World Ranking: 41st


This is the fifth time the Lions of the Atlas have made the tournament. They will be led by two-time AFCON winning coach Hervé Renard. The team will also be looking to make a lasting impression to the world, as Morocco is also bidding for the 2026 Fifa World Cup.

The team from North Africa will be one of three African-Arab representatives, and will be led by Juventus player and national captain Mehdi Benatia. Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (1986). Best player: Younes Belhanda.


5. Tunisia: Nickname: The Eagles of Carthage, CAF Ranking: 1st, World Ranking: 21st


The Eagles of Carthage head into the 2018 Fifa World Cup as the highest-ranked African side after an impressive 2017 - and their momentum is likely to continue into the tournament.

They are making their fifth appearance - but their first since 2006. Coach Nabil Maaloul, who is in his third spell as Tunisia coach, has built a solid, spirited team worthy of going all the way. Best World Cup finish: Group Stages (1978, 1998, 2002, 2006). Best player: Wahbi Khazri

Courtesy: By Nkosinathi Shazi HuffPost South Africa

TRIBUTE: ALPHA SHAW


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