The FIFA Executive Council might have approved a 48-team world Cup for the 21st edition of the global football gathering, but of what use is the verdict to the competing continents? The largest representatives in the current format, Europe, have been offered three more slots to their already inflated 13 seats. Many a fun and pundits alike however tipped Africa to make use of the four additional slots to at least make a semis spot in the newly installed format if not bringing the ultimate trophy home.
As a continent emerging from the dark years of underachieving, it is not surprising to see many unknown forces popping up in recent years. From the courageous Cape Verde through to the fearsome Algeria, the well oiled Cranes to the returning Pharoahs, or the deceptive Black Stars to the inconsistent Elephants, Africa could not have asked for more options going into the new format. With nine tickets to fight for, Africa’s finest could be joining by the dark horses for the 2026 edition of the FIFA global festival.
Having never booked a semis spot in their history, the new format could see Africans finally inking their name into the history books of the world Cup. From Senegal’s heroic at the 2002 edition to the Swanson display of the Black Stars on home soil, the continent have been that close to the ultimate trophy. A destiny defining moment involving the Black Stars and a certain Uruguay side, saw Luis Suarez taking the headline instead. The then Anfield star denied the West African a ticket to the last four. Africa might not need him in 2026 if their nine representatives avoid each other.
In the attacking department of Association football, few continents can match Africa bar South America. From Didier Drogba to Patrick Mboma, Samuel Eto to Asamoah Gyan, or Pierre Emmerich Aubameyeng to Wilfred Bony, the leading attackers in most national teams are simply world class. The younger generation is however signaling even a better future for Africa in the next few years. I hope you’ve heard of Kelechi Iheanacho, Jack Iwobi, Bwana Alli Samantha, or the free scoring Raphael Dwamena of Ghana. With almost ten years to the 2026 world Cup, most of these strikers (including new ones) are set to light the world ablaze. The nine slot will reduce the competition for places with four more places up for grab. Giani Infantino could not have helped Africa any better. It could be the best option Africa have enjoyed at any football gathering. An almost 50 percent increment is beyond appreciation.
With emerging nations like Gabon drawing inspiration from their star forward(Aubameyeng) or Nigeria returning to its roots, Africa look set to feast on the new format rain or shine. The exploit of the Black stars and the Senegal gives hope to the continent but who expected Zambia to lift the 2013 Nations cup? What about the Jonathan Pitriopa inspired Stallions of Burkina Faso? Farouk Miya might be the Dark horse when his Uganda side storm Africa in the next few days at Gabon.
From one ticket to nine slots at the FIFA wold Cup, how will you rate Africa on the world football map? Do we deserve it as a football power house or by our numbers? Comments are welcome from all angles.
Written by : Saani Abacha