Will an African team ever win the world cup?

This bizarre statement has been uttered by many a football panel show host over the decades. Of course an African team will eventually win the world cup, but the question should be, how long will it take?

Pele famously said an African team would win the world cup by the year 2000. However since then only 3 African teams have managed to reach the quarter finals – including Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the Ivory Coast or Cote d’Ivoire. The “golden generation” of African football. This team contained Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba, Gervinho, Kalou, Kolo Toure and more. The fact this team included two of the best players in modern football history in Yaya and Didier yet failed to make an impact upset everyone from Africa to the UK who were familiar with these players talents in the Premier League each week.

 

african team win the world cup

 

Who will be the First African Country to Win the World Cup?

With that being said, who can become the next hope, the next golden generation of African football and go one step further than the quarter finals, or better yet, win the world cup?

 

Before we do anything we must establish the goldilocks zone. A goldilocks zone is a term used in astronomy and astrobiology to determine if a planet sits within a habitable zone that contains all the ingredients needed for life.

In a football scenario, the goldilocks zone will refer to a country that holds or has the potential to hold all of the ingredients needed to win a world cup.

In order to establish the ingredients needed to win a world cup we’ll take a look at past winners.

 

The Goldilocks Zone of World Cup Winners

Population Size

The first thing we found is that nearly all world cup winners have large populations.

Other than Spain and Argentina the previous 12 winners all had populations over 55m. The lowest at 55m was England in 1966. (It’s worth noting the global population was just 3.4b and over 1b was taken up by the US, China and India). This means that in 1966, 55m would be like 100m today.

The average population of all world cup winners from 1958 to 2018 excluding west germany as figures are uncertain; is 74.69m. Therefore we are looking for an African country with a similarly sized population.

 

Countries Wealth

Money matters, as does having the correct facilities and the ability to be able to play without difficulties.

We are going to have to find an African country that can equal a top European country for future economy size.

 

Sporting Competition

In England, football has to compete with Rugby, Cricket, Tennis, Athletics and esports in order to stand out. In the US it’s even more difficult with NFL, the NBA, NHL and the MLB.

In a country like Brazil – the most successful world cup country ever, football is king and very few other sports are played outside of BJJ/mixed martial arts.

Therefore we are looking for an African nation that has zero conflicts in terms of other sports.

 

An Outstanding Talent or Deep Squad

Players win matches, and superstars win tournaments. Maradona was the reason little Argentina were able to win the world cup twice in 78 and 86.

Xavi and Iniesta maestro’d Spain’s successful campaign.

Zidane dictated the French march in 1998 and scored the two winning goals in the final.

Brazil had Pele, later Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.

Italy in 2006 had an outstanding squad, but Cannavaro stood out as the best in the world at the time.

More recently Germany unleashed perhaps 7 world class players on the world and didn’t get touched. Followed by France in 2018 who were represented by Mbappe, Griezmann and Pogba.

 

In order to come out on top in any world cup tournament, it certainly helps to have an outstanding generational player or two in your lineup. Alternatively you need 11 world class players all working well together.

So we’re looking for African teams who currently have this, or who have shown signs of being able to produce such names in the past.

 

Playing at Top Club Level Teams

No team has ever won the world cup, without many of their players being at the best clubs in the world for that season, or 4 year run.

The Italian squad was always filled with AC, Inter and Juventus stars. The spanish team featured a mix of Madrid and Barca elite players. The 1998 French winning team had players featured across all of Europe’s top leagues.

 

The first African team must have established players in Europe’s top teams in order to win the world cup.

 

Physical Advantages

Speed, height, power, any of them will do. In fact all three would be very much welcomed.

Tournament football is tough and endurance is key. Sometimes you win ugly unless you’re spain. However even the spanish ran and ran and ran in order to gain their glory.

The two French winning teams included players sitting at 6ft plus across the field, with pace and power to match.

Every Brazilian team torments opposition players with their athletic abilities.

Germany in 2014 had 9/11 of their starting 11 in the final standing at over 6ft tall, with Ozil at 5,11 and Lahm at 5,7 the only two not reaching the mark.

 

The African team who wins the world cup will need to be strong, tall, physical and fast. An unusual amount of corners are scored at world cups, height really matters.

 

African Populations

Nigeria 196m

Ethiopia 109m

Egypt 98m

DR Congo 94m

South Africa 58m

Tanzania 56m

Kenya 51m

Uganda 43m

Algeria 42m

Sudan 42m

Here are the countries that sit closest to the 75m population target we’re looking for. We’ll move forward with these teams. This may also explain why Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon have fallen short in the past.

 

African Talent

Using only the teams above, we can claim that the following players are either generational talent or world class;

Salah (Egypt)

Mahrez (Algeria)

Fekir (Algeria)

However this only tells half the story. Many claimed that Africa won the world cup as France lifted the trophy in 2018.

It’s no secret that some of the best international players in history were actually African. Some of these players include;

Benzema (Algeria)

Zidane (Algeria)

Nasri (Algeria)

Mbappe (Algeria and Cameroon)

J.Boateng (Ghana)

Desailly (Ghana)

Makelele (DR Congo)

Vieira (Senegal)

Evra (Senegal)

Kompany (DR Congo)

Matuidi (DR Congo)

Alaba (Nigeria)

Eusebio (Mozambique)

Lukaku (DR Congo)

Pogba (Guinea)

 

African Wealth

With that being said it’s evident that the talent is there. Once internal issues are removed and economies are on par with the countries who have won the world cup, parents of these players may choose to remain in their home countries. Africa’s richest nations include;

Nigeria ($446,543 Billion)
South Africa ($358,839 Billion)
Egypt ($302,256 Billion)
Algeria ($172,781 Billion)
Morocco ($119,04 Billion)
Kenya ($98,607 Billion)
Angola ($91,527 Billion)
Ethiopia ($91,166 Billion)

 

African Players at Top Club Level Teams

The following is from the website; https://allafrica.com/stories/201905200054.html

“According to German website, Transfermarkt, more than 42 African players are contracted to English Premier League clubs with Nigeria and Senegal leading the pack. Most of these players have grown so dominant in their clubs that fans become jittery each time they, for one reason or another, are not able to take to the field.

The most popular of these stars are Salah, Mane, Alex Iwobi, Naby Kaita, Wilfred Zaha, Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Victor Wanyama.

But there are others, who are silently pushing their clubs to success in the most competitive league in the world.

Six of these players are from Senegal including, Mané (Liverpool), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyaté (Crystal Palace), Oumar Niasse (Cardiff City), Mohamed Diamé (Newcastle United) and Pape Souaré (Crystal Palace).

Nigeria has more players in the English Premiership than any other country, but only five of them represent the Super Eagles. They are Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City),

Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Isaac Success (Watford) and Leon Balogun (Brighton).

The Ivoirians in the EPL are Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace), Jean Michaël Seri (Fulham), Eric Bailly (Manchester United), Serge Aurier (Tottenham Hotspur) and Sol Bamba (Cardiff City).

Ghana’s four players in the EPL are Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace), Daniel Amartey (Leicester City) and Christian Atsu (Newcastle).

The DR Congo has three players, Mali (two), Guinea (two), Algeria two, including Mahrez, who was the best player in the EPL in the 2016/2017 season, while Benin has one.

Morocco and Togo have one each, while Kenya has two, including Victor Wanyama and Divock Okoth Origi, who will square off for Tottenham and Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League final respectively.

According to a recent survey, the number of African players playing for teams in Europe has gone up since the days when Jean Amadou Tigana and John Chiedozie were the only recognizable presence in the French and English leagues.”

It’s evident that just on the basis of the Premier League alone, African players are well represented. The same is true for Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, with the Serie A and La Liga dwindling a little it must be said.

Should African players begin to make the same impact in Serie A and La Liga as they have done in Europe’s other top leagues, then we’re certainly looking at a conclusive yes for this ingredient.

 

African Players Physical Advantages?

With the likes of Henry, Vieira, Desailly, Lukaku, the Boateng brothers, Essien, Eto’o, Makelele, Pogba, Mbappe, Thuram and more all being of African descent, it’s fair to say that some of the most physically gifted players of all time are from Africa.

I believe most would say this box is ticked in terms of height, speed and strength.

 

African Sporting Competition

Each of the countries listed have football as their national sport, even South Africa. However South Africa will struggle more than other countries due to the widespread sports played there. Rugby and athletics will drag some potentially high level footballers away from the game at various ages.

As for all of the other countries, football is the spotlight sports.

 

Africa’s Contenders for Lifting the World Cup

The question now, is which African countries fit the bill?

Who has the population size, the stability, the economic might, the physical advantages, the generational talents and the depth of squad with players all representing Europe’s best club sides?

 

Algeria

Egypt

DR Congo

Nigeria

 

From the final four we can make a few key decisions. The greatest players ever produced from these 4 have come from Algeria and DR Congo, making both teams likely to lift the trophy one day.

Nigeria have the financial power, the giant population and a great dept of talent in Europe’s top leagues, however they have never really produced a generational talent like the others. Sure Okocha and Kanu were superb, and Alaba could’ve represented them, but Algeria could argue, Mbappe, Zidane, Nasri, Mahrez and Benzema as their pool of players. DR Congo could also throw Kompany, Lukaku, Makelele, Matuidi and Mandanda out as their list. As for Egypt Salah and Mido are about the only 2 name’s that stick out.

On the current evidence DR Congo certainly have the talent, but the country may not be settled enough to have a list of players like this representing them for some time. Egypt could perhaps have a wave of talented footballers all following in Salah’s footsteps, but it’s hard to believe with just one world class player to go by.

So we’re left with Nigeria and Algeria. Nigeria have the size and financial advantage, with Algeria being the largest country. However, Nigeria have struggled to produce top class world beating talent in comparison to Algeria. Algeria have a major issue where France is considered the promise land for young people, which means France’s team keeps getting stronger as Algeria suffer.

As Nigeria have everything in place to become a world class team and have had incredible success at youth level with a direct path into Premier League football, we’re going to pick Nigeria as our bet for first African team to win a world cup. However Algeria look the current most likely, with DR Congo having the most potential, if civil wars are settled.

Based on the current Nigerian team, we think they’re some way off yet, but perhaps 2026, or 2030, we could see an African team picking up the famous trophy for the first time in the form of Nigeria.

 

Author Bio

Kris Sturmey

Kris Sturmey

Founder

Kris is a men’s expert with 7 years of experience within the men’s lifestyle game and is also the founder of 1STMAN based in London, UK.

Prior to starting Msicollege and 1STMAN Kris was a personal trainer, body language expert and men’s coach.

Kris has been a football fan for 25 years, following various teams from leagues all around the world.

Learn more about Kris in our about section and founder profile.

 

Will an African team ever win the world cup?

This bizarre statement has been uttered by many a football panel show host over the decades. Of course an African team will eventually win the world cup, but the question should be, how long will it take?

Pele famously said an African team would win the world cup by the year 2000. However since then only 3 African teams have managed to reach the quarter finals – including Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the Ivory Coast or Cote d’Ivoire. The “golden generation” of African football. This team contained Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba, Gervinho, Kalou, Kolo Toure and more. The fact this team included two of the best players in modern football history in Yaya and Didier yet failed to make an impact upset everyone from Africa to the UK who were familiar with these players talents in the Premier League each week.

 

african team win the world cup

 

Who will be the First African Country to Win the World Cup?

With that being said, who can become the next hope, the next golden generation of African football and go one step further than the quarter finals, or better yet, win the world cup?

 

Before we do anything we must establish the goldilocks zone. A goldilocks zone is a term used in astronomy and astrobiology to determine if a planet sits within a habitable zone that contains all the ingredients needed for life.

In a football scenario, the goldilocks zone will refer to a country that holds or has the potential to hold all of the ingredients needed to win a world cup.

In order to establish the ingredients needed to win a world cup we’ll take a look at past winners.

 

The Goldilocks Zone of World Cup Winners

Population Size

The first thing we found is that nearly all world cup winners have large populations.

Other than Spain and Argentina the previous 12 winners all had populations over 55m. The lowest at 55m was England in 1966. (It’s worth noting the global population was just 3.4b and over 1b was taken up by the US, China and India). This means that in 1966, 55m would be like 100m today.

The average population of all world cup winners from 1958 to 2018 excluding west germany as figures are uncertain; is 74.69m. Therefore we are looking for an African country with a similarly sized population.

 

Countries Wealth

Money matters, as does having the correct facilities and the ability to be able to play without difficulties.

We are going to have to find an African country that can equal a top European country for future economy size.

 

Sporting Competition

In England, football has to compete with Rugby, Cricket, Tennis, Athletics and esports in order to stand out. In the US it’s even more difficult with NFL, the NBA, NHL and the MLB.

In a country like Brazil – the most successful world cup country ever, football is king and very few other sports are played outside of BJJ/mixed martial arts.

Therefore we are looking for an African nation that has zero conflicts in terms of other sports.

 

An Outstanding Talent or Deep Squad

Players win matches, and superstars win tournaments. Maradona was the reason little Argentina were able to win the world cup twice in 78 and 86.

Xavi and Iniesta maestro’d Spain’s successful campaign.

Zidane dictated the French march in 1998 and scored the two winning goals in the final.

Brazil had Pele, later Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.

Italy in 2006 had an outstanding squad, but Cannavaro stood out as the best in the world at the time.

More recently Germany unleashed perhaps 7 world class players on the world and didn’t get touched. Followed by France in 2018 who were represented by Mbappe, Griezmann and Pogba.

 

In order to come out on top in any world cup tournament, it certainly helps to have an outstanding generational player or two in your lineup. Alternatively you need 11 world class players all working well together.

So we’re looking for African teams who currently have this, or who have shown signs of being able to produce such names in the past.

 

Playing at Top Club Level Teams

No team has ever won the world cup, without many of their players being at the best clubs in the world for that season, or 4 year run.

The Italian squad was always filled with AC, Inter and Juventus stars. The spanish team featured a mix of Madrid and Barca elite players. The 1998 French winning team had players featured across all of Europe’s top leagues.

 

The first African team must have established players in Europe’s top teams in order to win the world cup.

 

Physical Advantages

Speed, height, power, any of them will do. In fact all three would be very much welcomed.

Tournament football is tough and endurance is key. Sometimes you win ugly unless you’re spain. However even the spanish ran and ran and ran in order to gain their glory.

The two French winning teams included players sitting at 6ft plus across the field, with pace and power to match.

Every Brazilian team torments opposition players with their athletic abilities.

Germany in 2014 had 9/11 of their starting 11 in the final standing at over 6ft tall, with Ozil at 5,11 and Lahm at 5,7 the only two not reaching the mark.

 

The African team who wins the world cup will need to be strong, tall, physical and fast. An unusual amount of corners are scored at world cups, height really matters.

 

African Populations

Nigeria 196m

Ethiopia 109m

Egypt 98m

DR Congo 94m

South Africa 58m

Tanzania 56m

Kenya 51m

Uganda 43m

Algeria 42m

Sudan 42m

Here are the countries that sit closest to the 75m population target we’re looking for. We’ll move forward with these teams. This may also explain why Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon have fallen short in the past.

 

African Talent

Using only the teams above, we can claim that the following players are either generational talent or world class;

Salah (Egypt)

Mahrez (Algeria)

Fekir (Algeria)

However this only tells half the story. Many claimed that Africa won the world cup as France lifted the trophy in 2018.

It’s no secret that some of the best international players in history were actually African. Some of these players include;

Benzema (Algeria)

Zidane (Algeria)

Nasri (Algeria)

Mbappe (Algeria and Cameroon)

J.Boateng (Ghana)

Desailly (Ghana)

Makelele (DR Congo)

Vieira (Senegal)

Evra (Senegal)

Kompany (DR Congo)

Matuidi (DR Congo)

Alaba (Nigeria)

Eusebio (Mozambique)

Lukaku (DR Congo)

Pogba (Guinea)

 

African Wealth

With that being said it’s evident that the talent is there. Once internal issues are removed and economies are on par with the countries who have won the world cup, parents of these players may choose to remain in their home countries. Africa’s richest nations include;

Nigeria ($446,543 Billion)
South Africa ($358,839 Billion)
Egypt ($302,256 Billion)
Algeria ($172,781 Billion)
Morocco ($119,04 Billion)
Kenya ($98,607 Billion)
Angola ($91,527 Billion)
Ethiopia ($91,166 Billion)

 

African Players at Top Club Level Teams

The following is from the website; https://allafrica.com/stories/201905200054.html

“According to German website, Transfermarkt, more than 42 African players are contracted to English Premier League clubs with Nigeria and Senegal leading the pack. Most of these players have grown so dominant in their clubs that fans become jittery each time they, for one reason or another, are not able to take to the field.

The most popular of these stars are Salah, Mane, Alex Iwobi, Naby Kaita, Wilfred Zaha, Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Victor Wanyama.

But there are others, who are silently pushing their clubs to success in the most competitive league in the world.

Six of these players are from Senegal including, Mané (Liverpool), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyaté (Crystal Palace), Oumar Niasse (Cardiff City), Mohamed Diamé (Newcastle United) and Pape Souaré (Crystal Palace).

Nigeria has more players in the English Premiership than any other country, but only five of them represent the Super Eagles. They are Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City),

Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Isaac Success (Watford) and Leon Balogun (Brighton).

The Ivoirians in the EPL are Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace), Jean Michaël Seri (Fulham), Eric Bailly (Manchester United), Serge Aurier (Tottenham Hotspur) and Sol Bamba (Cardiff City).

Ghana’s four players in the EPL are Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace), Daniel Amartey (Leicester City) and Christian Atsu (Newcastle).

The DR Congo has three players, Mali (two), Guinea (two), Algeria two, including Mahrez, who was the best player in the EPL in the 2016/2017 season, while Benin has one.

Morocco and Togo have one each, while Kenya has two, including Victor Wanyama and Divock Okoth Origi, who will square off for Tottenham and Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League final respectively.

According to a recent survey, the number of African players playing for teams in Europe has gone up since the days when Jean Amadou Tigana and John Chiedozie were the only recognizable presence in the French and English leagues.”

It’s evident that just on the basis of the Premier League alone, African players are well represented. The same is true for Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, with the Serie A and La Liga dwindling a little it must be said.

Should African players begin to make the same impact in Serie A and La Liga as they have done in Europe’s other top leagues, then we’re certainly looking at a conclusive yes for this ingredient.

 

African Players Physical Advantages?

With the likes of Henry, Vieira, Desailly, Lukaku, the Boateng brothers, Essien, Eto’o, Makelele, Pogba, Mbappe, Thuram and more all being of African descent, it’s fair to say that some of the most physically gifted players of all time are from Africa.

I believe most would say this box is ticked in terms of height, speed and strength.

 

African Sporting Competition

Each of the countries listed have football as their national sport, even South Africa. However South Africa will struggle more than other countries due to the widespread sports played there. Rugby and athletics will drag some potentially high level footballers away from the game at various ages.

As for all of the other countries, football is the spotlight sports.

 

Africa’s Contenders for Lifting the World Cup

The question now, is which African countries fit the bill?

Who has the population size, the stability, the economic might, the physical advantages, the generational talents and the depth of squad with players all representing Europe’s best club sides?

 

Algeria

Egypt

DR Congo

Nigeria

 

From the final four we can make a few key decisions. The greatest players ever produced from these 4 have come from Algeria and DR Congo, making both teams likely to lift the trophy one day.

Nigeria have the financial power, the giant population and a great dept of talent in Europe’s top leagues, however they have never really produced a generational talent like the others. Sure Okocha and Kanu were superb, and Alaba could’ve represented them, but Algeria could argue, Mbappe, Zidane, Nasri, Mahrez and Benzema as their pool of players. DR Congo could also throw Kompany, Lukaku, Makelele, Matuidi and Mandanda out as their list. As for Egypt Salah and Mido are about the only 2 name’s that stick out.

On the current evidence DR Congo certainly have the talent, but the country may not be settled enough to have a list of players like this representing them for some time. Egypt could perhaps have a wave of talented footballers all following in Salah’s footsteps, but it’s hard to believe with just one world class player to go by.

So we’re left with Nigeria and Algeria. Nigeria have the size and financial advantage, with Algeria being the largest country. However, Nigeria have struggled to produce top class world beating talent in comparison to Algeria. Algeria have a major issue where France is considered the promise land for young people, which means France’s team keeps getting stronger as Algeria suffer.

As Nigeria have everything in place to become a world class team and have had incredible success at youth level with a direct path into Premier League football, we’re going to pick Nigeria as our bet for first African team to win a world cup. However Algeria look the current most likely, with DR Congo having the most potential, if civil wars are settled.

Based on the current Nigerian team, we think they’re some way off yet, but perhaps 2026, or 2030, we could see an African team picking up the famous trophy for the first time in the form of Nigeria.

 

Author Bio

Kris Sturmey

Kris Sturmey

Founder

Kris is a men’s expert with 6 years of experience within the men’s lifestyle game and is also the founder of 1STMAN based in London, UK.

Prior to starting Msicollege and 1STMAN Kris was a personal trainer, body language expert and men’s coach.

Kris has been a football fan for 25 years, following various teams from leagues all around the world.

Learn more about Kris in our about section and founder profile.