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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK

Africa's missing World Cup years

By Durosimi Thomas
BBC Sport Online, Accra

Africa has five representatives at this year's World Cup finals.

But securing these slots has been a long, hard struggle.

It took a 1966 World Cup boycott by 17 African nations before the continent was awarded one direct qualifying spot for the subsequent tournament in 1970.

Before this drastic action was taken, a team that topped the African zone had to go through a play-off against a European or Asian side to secure a place in the finals.

Africa's World Cup History 1934 -1970

  • 1934:Egypt beat Palestine 11-2 to qualify
  • 1938:No entry - Egypt withdrew
  • 1950:No entry
  • 1954:Egypt lose 3-8 to Italy in the playoff
  • 1958: Sudan withdrew to avoid Israel
  • 1962:Morocco lose 2-4 to Spain in the playoff
  • 1966:African countries boycott the qualification series
  • 1970:Morocco qualify for finals
  • Prior to 1970 Africa's only representative at the World Cup was Egypt, who qualified for the tournament in 1934 after beating Palestine.

    Colonialism

    There were other factors that damaged Africa's interests at football's premier event.

    Many countries in west and southern Africa were mainly under French, English, and Portuguese rule.

    This meant their best players were picked to play for the countries which colonized them.

    Portugal legend Eusebio, of Mozambican extraction, is a prime example.

    Boycott

    Egypt and Sudan were among the first African countries to join Fifa but pulled out of several World Cup qualifiers to avoid playing against Israel, a political arch-enemy.

    As a result of the independence movements in the 1950's and 60's, the number of teams trying to qualify for the tournament increased.

    It took a boycott of the 1966 tournament in England before an agreement was reached between Fifa and Caf, in which a reserved slot was given to the continent.

    A record number of entries were received for the 1970 World Cup qualifying series, in which Morocco became the first country to benefit from the change.

    Record goalscorers

    While no African team has won the World Cup, individual Africans have managed to taste World Cup glory in different circumstances.

    In 1998, it was a multi-racial French national side, including Algerian Zinedine Zidane and Ghanaian Marcel Desailly, that won the World Cup in Paris.

    And 40 years earlier, Juste Fontaine, a French player of Moroccan origin, became the highest scorer at the 1958 finals with 13 goals - a record that still holds.


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