Africa’s highs at the 2018 World Cup

Africa’s highs at the 2018 World Cup
Goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary of Egypt reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group A preliminary round soccer match between Saudi Arabia and Egypt in Volgograd, Russia, 25 June 2018. EPA-EFE/Zurab Kurtsikidze

by Graeme Jackson

Sunday Jul 08, 2018. 17:00

All five African teams may have been knocked out in the group stage, but there was still some notable high points for the continent’s representatives at the 2018 World Cup.

Egypt – Essam El-Hadary’s record as the oldest player

June 25, 2018 was the date when Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary made history by becoming the oldest player, at age 45, to appear at the World Cup finals. He surpassed Colombian Faryd Mondragon’s previous mark of 43 at the 2014 finals in Brazil. The Pharaohs ‘keeper even put in a great showing against Saudi Arabia, notably saving a penalty from Fahad Al Muwallad, though the match ended in a 2-1 defeat for the North Africans.

Senegal – Moussa Wague becomes the continent’s youngest goal scorer

When he scored in the 71st minute of Senegal’s 2-2 draw with Japan in a Group H clash in Yekaterinburg, 19-year-old Moussa Wague became the youngest African goal-scorer in World Cup history. He eclipsed the previous mark held by Ghana’s Haminu Draman, who netted as a 20-year-old against the USA in the 2006 finals in Germany.

Nigeria – Ahmed Musa’s brace puts him in the history books

Ahmed Musa was restored to Nigeria’s team for their match against Iceland in Volgograd, having missed out on the starting XI for their 2-0 loss to Croatia. The 25-year-old, who has played much of his club football in Russia, responded with a superb brace of goals in the second half to see the Super Eagles claim a 2-0 win over the tournament debutants. The strikes took his overall World Cup goal tally to four, making him Nigeria’s all-time leading scorer at the tournament.

Morocco – Exposing Spain’s weaknesses

Morocco may have been mathematically eliminated by the time they took on 2010 world champions Spain in their final Group B match in Kaliningrad, but the Atlas Lions put in a performance which belied their early exit and nearly saw the end of ‘La Furia Roja’, who needed a last-gasp goal from Iago Aspas to salvage a 2-2 draw. Had things turned out just a little differently, Khalid Boutaib and Youssef El-Nesyri’s goals could have helped Iran advance at Spain’s expense.

Tunisia – Carthage Eagles end on a high

Tunisia were also out of last 16 contention by the time they faced Panama in their final Group H match in Saransk. By this time we knew that all five African teams had been eliminated in the first round, but the Carthage Eagles at least ensured that the continent’s final contribution to Russia 2018 was a positive one. Goals from Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (the 2500th in World Cup history) and Wahbi Khazri saw Tunisia claim their first ‘Mundial’ win since 1978.

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