Morocco made history last night with a stunning victory over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, reaching the semifinals of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. With that feat, they became the first African nation to advance past the quarterfinals stage of any World Cup. Only Cameroon. Ghana and Senegal were able to reach the quarterfinals stage in the past, and Morocco’s run has now eclipsed all of those feats.
Morocco’s performance in the tournament is a torchbearer for the steady rise of Africa in international football, with the continent now getting 11 slots in the 2026 edition of the World Cup. As the FIFA World Cup 2022 reaches its semifinals stage, let’s take a look at how African teams performed in the tournament:
Cameroon – Group Stage Exit
Cameroon are Africa’s regular entry at FIFA World Cups, with the West-Central African side being a part of eight different editions of the tournament so far. Their best performance came in 1990 when they reached the quarterfinals for the only time in their history. Cameroon were placed in Group G of the current World Cup, along with Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia.
While they conceded an easy win to Switzerland in their opening game, Rigobert Song’s side fought back bravely in their second game against Serbia. Vincent Aboubakar and Choupo-Moting scored goals in the second half to hold Serbia to a draw, tossing up the calculations for the knockout berths in the group.
Their moment to shine came in the final moments against Brazil, with Vincent Aboubakar scoring a stoppage-time goal to give them a victory, even though Switzerland’s win over Serbia saw them eliminated from the World Cup.
Ghana – Group Stage Exit
Since 2006, Ghana have qualified for the World Cup four times, making them one of the strongest teams in the continent. Their best performance came in 2010 when they defeated the United States to reach the quarterfinals. In the current World Cup, they were grouped with Portugal, South Korea and Uruguay.
In their opening game, they made Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal sweat it out for a win, scoring late in the game and giving the Selecao the jitters until the final whistle. They then went on to win their second game against South Korea 3-2, with Mohammed Kudus scoring twice in the game. But the African side could not carry that momentum in their final game, succumbing to a 2-0 loss to Uruguay and getting eliminated from the tournament in the process.
Tunisia – Group Stage Exit
Tunisia are one of the most experienced teams in the World Cup, with the nation’s proximity to the European continent helping the country in developing local talent. Despite boasting a talented squad, the Tunisians have failed to qualify for the knockout rounds in any edition of the tournament. In the ongoing World Cup, Tunisia were grouped with Denmark, France and Australia.
The North African side barely looked confident on the field in their first two games, holding Denmark to a goalless draw before succumbing to a 1-0 loss to the Socceroos. Their moment of glory came against an already-qualified France in the final game. Wahbi Khazri scored in the second half to give the Tunisians a 1-0 lead, and late drama saw Antoine Griezemann’s stoppage-time goal being disallowed by the VAR to seal Tunisia’s victory.
Senegal – Round of 16
Senegal rarely qualify for the World Cup finals, but whenever they enter the tournament, they make their presence felt. A quarterfinal run in 2002 and an elimination using the fair-play rule in 2018 made Senegal the team to watch for drama, but the team also boasts of some of the finest talents from the continent among its ranks – including Eduoard Mendy and Ismaila Sarr. In the ongoing World Cup, they were grouped alongside the Netherlands, Ecuador and hosts Qatar.
Qatar’s surprisingly dismal performance at the World Cup made the path to the knockout rounds easy for the African side. A 2-0 defeat to the Dutch was widely expected, and the Senegalese quickly bounced back to form with a 3-1 victory over the hosts. A 2-1 victory against Ecuador in their final game sealed their knockout berth, with Kalidou Koulibaly’s unlikely volley proving to be the difference between both sides.
Senegal’s spot in the Round of 16 was widely considered to be undeserving, with much better teams failing to advance due to the competitive nature of their groups. Although the Senegalese fans created a vibrant atmosphere inside the stadium, Senegal were hapless on the field against England. They had to exit the tournament with a 3-0 victory, with the Three Lions completely dominating the proceedings.
Morocco – Semifinals*
The unlikely stars of the tournament, Morocco’s journey is now being watched across Africa and the Arab world. Before the current edition, their only moderately successful campaign was in 1986, when they reached the Round of 16. The draw for the 2022 World Cup did not favour them either – with Belgium, Croatia and Canada considered overwhelming favourites.
But Walid Regrarui’s side are not only exceeding expectations, but they are also doing so by a wide margin. Morocco remain undefeated in the World Cup so far, stunning one nation after another with its grit and perseverance. A goalless draw against Croatia was followed by a stunning 2-0 victory over Belgium, marking one of the finest upset wins in the tournament. They ended the group stages by finishing at the top with seven points – a scenario that upset every team’s calculations.
A penalty shootout win against Spain in the Round of 16 showed the defensive mettle with which the African side approached their games in the tournament – they conceded just one goal in the tournament and kept four clean sheets. En-Nesyri’s first-half goal against Portugal sealed their semifinal berth, with Morocco focussing on defending the ball for the majority of the remaining time.
With several players succumbing to fatigue and injuries during the quarterfinals, fans will be hoping that Morocco will be able to regroup ahead of their semifinal fixture against defending champions France on Thursday. While the defending champions look in sublime form, Morocco have already shown that they are not incapable of facing the goliaths of football.
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