African performances are a turning point in football

Senegal supporters at the World Cup held in Qatar. Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images.

For Africa, having several teams make it out of the group stage to advance to the round of 16 of the World Cup is an important step. Senegal and Morocco’s remarkable run to the knockout stages of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar is Africa’s best World Cup performance since 2014. That year, Nigeria and Algeria reached the 1/8 finals. It is a heartening performance after a dismal 2018 World Cup in which none of Africa’s representatives made it past the group stage.

Qualifying for the round of 16 is an important step, but what could be more sustainable is the promotion of more teams to the quarter-finals. Senegal’s hopes were dashed by losing to England in the round of 16. Previously, three African teams reached the quarter-finals: in 1990 (Cameroon), in 2002 (Senegal) and in 2010 (Ghana).

However, two African teams have never reached this stage in the same World Cup. Could 2022 be the right year?

Tunisia’s remarkable performance at the moment is an indication of this. Tunisia failed to qualify for the first round, but their 1-0 win over reigning world champions France is a story in itself. It was France’s only defeat in the first round.

Cameroon also showed their mettle to surprise the Brazilian favourites. Switzerland beat Serbia and narrowly lost their place in the 1/8 finals.

But the real story is yet to come. Can Senegal and Morocco qualify for the final? Moroccan manager Walid Regraghi clearly thinks so. He told the media:

It will be very difficult to beat us… I think African teams can go far. Why don’t we dream of winning the World Cup?

Rating problem

Africa’s performances in 2022 highlight a World Cup challenge: ranking. The rating presented by FIFA, the world football body, has been a subject of controversy for years. Especially in the use of odds – a system based on past scores used to rank the collective performance of teams. This system then determines the number of places allocated to each continent or region in the World Cup. Currently, the odds favor European and South American teams to the detriment of teams from other regions of the world.

This is not an effective method to assess the strength of national teams, as the ranking system assigns coefficients based on the performance of the best teams in a continental confederation (such as the Confederation of African Football). It is more logical to set the coefficients not according to the results of the confederations, but according to the position in the FIFA ranking.

For example, teams from 1 to 50 receive the same odds regardless of their confederation. This prevents weak teams from certain confederations from benefiting from the performance of strong teams from their confederations. Currently, the top teams from weaker confederations are at a disadvantage as their wins are affected by lower odds in the ranking equation.

A turning point

In addition to qualifying for the quarter-finals, Africa’s performance in Qatar marks an important turning point, showing that the continent can consistently compete with the world’s best teams.

Although FIFA makes changes to the rating system from time to time, this World Cup has once again challenged the system.

It’s not that 22nd-placed Morocco topped their group ahead of well-placed Belgium and Croatia, but that Europe’s worst-performing teams benefited from these odds. more than the top teams in regions with lower odds.

For example, teams such as Serbia and Wales each received higher rankings than Morocco, Ghana and Japan, who strongly outperformed them.

So what do the 2022 matches hold? First, it is becoming increasingly clear that Africa deserves the nine-place promotion they will receive for the next World Cup in the USA in 2026.

Africa currently has five spots, but competition for those spots is usually fierce, and several top African teams have failed to qualify. Among these teams are Algeria, Egypt, Ivory Coast and Nigeria, who have already won the Africa Cup of Nations and have consistently been among the best teams in Africa for the past few years.

Close the gap

Another thing that is clear in Qatar is that the Bosman ruling, which opened up the transfer of players between clubs and countries, has helped accelerate the development of football talent globally. It expanded the scope and spread of technical football development. This has narrowed the gap between the haves and the have-nots in world football. For example, the Center for International Sports Studies (CIES) Football Observatory notes the migration of a large number of talents from all over the world, including Africa, to Europe’s “big five” leagues. These talents are returning from Europe to represent their country in the World Cup.

A new source of talent for African countries at the World Cup is players born in Europe, particularly of African parents, or eligible to play in African countries. Many of these players are increasingly declaring themselves fit to play for African nations, and their impact in competitions such as the World Cup will be particularly evident in 2022.

Finally, the African teams participating in the World Cup prove that they deserve their place in the concert of nations.

This article has been updated to reflect the result of the Senegal v England match.

The original version of this article was published on été Conversationa news site à non-commercial dédié to the exchange of ideas between academic experts and the general public.

Read more:

  • The World Cup in Qatar: when sponsors enter geopolitics

  • No, today’s football players are not that different physically from those of yesterday

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *