It is 2020 and no African country has lifted the World Cup yet. However, the last decade saw the rise of a number of African national football teams. In July 2017, the number of teams that participate in the African Cup of Nation (AFCON) was expanded from 16 to 24. Also, the biennial contest was moved from January to June. Consequently, some African national football teams were able to participate for the first time.
With the qualifiers for the 2021 AFCON set to begin later this month, it is important to take a look back at some of the most successful African national football teams in the last decade. Interestingly, there are a few surprises. We would like to hear your opinion after going through our list. Feel free to drop your comment using the box below. Starting from the bottom to the top, here are the national teams that ruled the last decade.
#10. Senegal (Lions of Teranga)
The Senegal national football team is controlled by the Senegalese Football Federation. Inasmuch as they have never won the continental trophy, they have been knocking on the door and it’s just a matter of time before they do. Senegal has made regular appearances at the Nations Cup. They are the second African team to reach the quarter-finals in the 2002 FIFA World Cup after Cameroon. Interestingly, they achieved this feat at their very first appearance at the World Cup. However, they had to wait until 2018 to make their second appearance at the world stage. In 2019, they were runner-up in the AFCON, losing by a lone goal to Algeria. In the last decade, they failed to qualify for AFCON only twice (2010 and 2013).
#9. Tunisia (The Eagles of Carthage)
Tunisia has won the AFCON once (2004). They also came close to the trophy twice (1996 and 1965). However, their best outing in the last decade was a fourth-place finish in 2019 after losing by a lone goal to Nigeria. The Tunisia national football team is governed by the Tunisia Football Federation. They have appeared in 5 FIFA World Cup tournaments including once in the last decade (2018). They participated in all AFCON tournaments in the last decade. With the amount of resilience the team has shown, they are likely to win big this decade.
#8. Morocco (Atlas Lions)
Morocco’s national football team is governed by the Fédération Royale Marocaine de football (FRMF). They hold the record as the first African team to finish top in a group at the FIFA World Cup 1986. Also, they were the first African team to make it to the second round. As an independent nation, they have made 4 appearances at the FIFA World Cup including once in the last decade (Russia 2018). With the exception of 2010 and 2015, they participated in all AFCON tournaments in the last decade. However, their best run was in 2017 where they reached the quarterfinals. Morocco remains a tough nation to beat at every tournament.
#7. Zambia (Chipolopolo)
The Zambian national football team was one of the teams that stood out in the last decade. Their most memorable victory was in 2012 when they beat star-studded Ivory Coast to lift the AFCON trophy. After that victory, the spotlight moved to them. However, they have not been able to sustain that tempo. In fact, they were eliminated in the group stage of the next two tournaments. Subsequently, they failed to qualify in the last two (2017 and 2019). Also, they have never made an appearance at the FIFA World Cup. However, all hope is not lost. With the number of young players rising from the country, their fate may soon turnaround.
#6. Ghana (Black Stars)
Ghana is one of the national teams that has appeared in nearly all the AFCON tournaments. They have also won the tournament record 4 times. In all their appearances at the tournament in the last decade, they ended second to fourth except in 2019 where they were eliminated in the round of 16. Ghana has made 3 appearances at the FIFA World Cup (2006, 2010, 2014). However, their best outing was in 2010 when they nearly reached the semi-final. Thanks to Luis Suarez’s hand-ball, Uruguay progressed to a penalty shootout—and eventually won. The Ghana Football Association is the oldest in Africa (1920) and governs football in the country.
#5. Cameroon (The Indomitable Lions)
Going by statistics, Cameroon is one of the most successful national teams in the continent. They have made seven FIFA World Cup appearances. However, they have only succeeded to make it beyond the group stages on two occasions. In 1990, they became the first African team to reach the quarter-finals. On the continental level, they have won the AFCON tournament 5 times. Their latest was in 2017. The last decade has not been a favorable one for them. They made four appearances and never went beyond the second round (with exception of 2017). Fédération Camerounaise de Football controls football in the country.
#4. Egypt (The Pharaohs)
When it comes to AFCON, Egypt remains the most successful team with a total of 7 wins. Egypt’s national football team has reached 9th in FIFA World Rankings. Thus, they are one of the three African national teams to have ever reached the top ten in the world. Inasmuch as they are the most successful in the continent, they have only made three FIFA World Cup Appearances. Their latest was in Russia in 2018. Egypt’s football success declined in the last decade. However, it is gradually picking up, especially with so much inspiration from Mohamed Salah.
#3. Ivory Coast (The Elephants)
Ivory Coast’s most impressive outing in the last decade was in 2015 when they lifted the AFCON trophy. They also got close in 2012 but lost to Zambia on penalties. Ivorian Football Federation (FIF) controls the country’s football. Ivory Coast qualified for FIFA World Cup three times in a row from 2006 to 2014. However, they have never made it beyond the group stage. In the last decade, they appeared in all AFCON tournaments but mostly knocked out in the quarter-finals. Make no mistake, Ivory Coast still has some of the best stars in the continent.
#2. Nigeria (Super Eagles)
Nigeria is one of the three countries in Africa to have ever reached the top ten in the FIFA World Ranking. They reached a record 5th Ranking in April 1994, the best by an African football team. They are three-times AFCON champions with the latest coming in 2013. Since 1994, Nigeria has appeared in all FIFA World Cup except in 2006. In three of their 6 appearances, they reached the round of 16. Nigeria won a trophy in all their AFCON appearances in the last decade. Also, the country’s national football team has never lost any third-place game. In 2019, they beat Tunisia to win their 8th third-place title. Nigeria has lots of young talents that will shape the future of African football.
#1. Algeria (The Desert Warriors)
Algeria is the reigning African champion. the country has won the AFCON tournament only twice. However, they have qualified for the FIFA World Cup four times including twice in the last decade. They were able to reach the round of 16 in 2014. Algeria was the first African national football team to score 4 goals in a match in 2014. The football body in the country is Algerian Football Federation. The country has produced talented players and considered one of the best teams in African football history.
Other notable mentions in the last decade were DR Congo, Mali, and Burkina Faso. All three countries were able to clinch the third-place title in the last decade. However, only DR Congo has ever qualified for the World Cup. We know it is always difficult to cut a long list down to ten. If you think there is any country that deserves to be on this list, let us know in the comment box.
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