African world cup spots

Updated: November 13, 2017

It has been up for discussion a number of times and is often brought up amongst fans of international soccer. Granted Pelé’s famous quote where he said that an African nation would win the world cup before the year 2000 has turned out to be one of his many strange statements, if the continent is only allowed five spots in the final tournament their odds don’t really improve.

As betting picks the African nations are always tricky but therein lies the charm. They are unpredictable in single games, in specific encounters, even though they might be too predictable over the entire course of a cup. They can outplay one of the best European or South American side in one game, then stumble and cause some unbelievable, unnecessary fouls the next game against a minor nation. It is dangerously close to generalization but African sides tend to play in this manner when it comes to the world cup, somewhat uneven, but they should not be blamed for it, with only five spots in the world cup.

Europe has the most number of spots allocated – 16 – even though there are 55 nations in Africa and 44 in Europe. This is one reason -albeit far from the only one – why Europe has managed to build consistency with a handful of fantastic football nations always with a shot at the title, as well as a couple more which get far.

If Africa would get – say ten spots instead of five – it is pretty obvious that the chances would be higher for an African side to reach a final sooner than later.

This time around we will see three North African sides in the world cup for the first time. Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt have all qualified, together with Nigeria and Senegal. This means that nations such as Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon are out, all of these latter which have participated previously and played some inspiring football with memorable encounters not least against European sides. Cameroon, especially, played a very tough group with a newborn Zambia and Algeria, an Algeria for those who remember being one of the great surprises in the 2014 world cup.

It doesn’t help Africa much that they play some strange qualification schedule with two knock-out phases followed by a group stage. Angola was for instance knocked out in the second round against South Africa, both of whom we have seen in world cups past. Togo, who we have also seen recently enough were knocked out against Uganda ahead of the final group stage. The format is probably in need of some change, but that is easier said than done considering none of these FA’s has even half the budget the Swedish, Peruvian or Mexican FA has.

It goes without saying that FIFA would have to drag five spots out of UEFA’s dead hands before they could award the African confederation a total of ten, but maybe it is time to spread it around and start somewhere. One from Europe, half a one from South America who has four and a half spots and half a one from CONCACAF who has three and a half spots.

Maybe it is even time to merge CONMEBOL (South American confederation) with CONCACAF (North and Central American confederation) and award Africa seven spots in the world cup? It is a start.

/ Zvonko,