Top 10 Best African Countries In Football
Africans are absolutely passionate about football; it is one of the things that bring joy to the continent. Some African countries are also popular globally because of soccer.
But out of the 54 African nations, few teams have remained in contention as the top in football for long periods.
In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you the top 10 best African countries in football.
The criteria for ranking these teams is based on total African Cup of Nations (AFCON) titles, performances at the FIFA World Cup, successful players abroad, and the number of African Player of the Year awards.
Egypt is the most successful and dominant country in the history of African football.
Egyptians are passionate about football. They have the most successful club side in the world; Al Ahly.
The Pharaohs currently hold the record for most AFCON titles, having won the competition 7 times — including a 3-peat from 2006 to 2010.
Furthermore, Egypt has been a frequent participant in the continental tournament, having played in 25 of 33 AFCON editions — most in history.
The Egyptians won the inaugural edition in 1957 and successfully defended it two years later.
They have produced some of the best players to come out of African football, like Mohammed Aboutrika, Mohamed Salah, Essam El Hadary, Mido, Amr Zaki, Mohammed Zidan, and Hossam Hassan.
The Pharaohs haven’t replicated their dominance of Africa on the world stage, though, as they have only qualified for 3 FIFA World Cups.
This is despite being the first African nation to participate in the World Cup, which they did in 1934.
Egypt was also the first Arab country to play at the World Cup.
They also hold the record for the oldest player to have played at the World Cup and are the only national team with a perfect winning record against Germany.
Most of the most decorated African footballers have come from Egypt.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon are one of the top African football countries and should arguably be in the first position.
Cameroon holds the record for the most FIFA World Cup qualifications among African teams, with 8 appearances on the big stage.
They were also the first African team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, doing so in Italia 90′, where they were knocked out in extra-time by England.
Their performance at that tournament positively affected the history of African football, as FIFA increased the number of African teams at the World Cup.
Furthermore, the Indomitable Lions hold the record for most consecutive World Cup appearances for African teams — with four between 1990 and 2002.
In 2003, Cameroon became the first and only African team to reach the FIFA Confederation Cup final.
On the African stage, they’re more than a force to be reckoned with, having won the AFCON 5 times.
Cameroon have also produced some incredible players, such as Samuel Eto’o, Rigobert and Alex Song, Geremi Njitap, Lauren, Patrick M’boma, and the legendary Roger Milla, who is one of the greatest African footballers at the World Cup.
No country has won more African Footballer of the Year prize than Cameroon. The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon have had their players named Best in Africa 11 times — with Eto’o claiming four of those awards.
Indeed, the Francophone nation are one of the best African countries in football.
Although not the most successful, Nigeria is the most popular national team in Africa for producing some of the best players on the continent.
The Super Eagles have appeared at 6 FIFA World Cups and reached the round of 16 on 3 occasions.
The Golden Generation of Nigerian footballers came in 1994; they won the AFCON and dazzled the whole world at the World Cup that year.
In April 1994, the Nigerian national football team was ranked 5th in the FIFA rankings — the highest FIFA ranking position ever achieved by an African football team.
With a record number of AFCON Bronze medals, Nigeria deserves to be third on this list.
The Super Eagles are the most decorated team in AFCON history. 3 winners medals, 4 silver medals, and a record 8 bronze medals mean the Super Eagles have finished in the top three in 15 of their 18 AFCON appearances.
Star players like Rashidi Yekini, Segun Odegbami, Mutiu Adepoju, Sunday Oliseh, Kanu Nwankwo, Victor Ikpeba, Emmanuel Amuneke, Jay Jay Okocha, Daniel Amokach, John Obi Mikel have come from Nigeria.
Kanu Nwankwo, Emmanuel Amunike, Rashidi Yekini, Daniel Amokachi, and Victor Ikpeba are the Nigerians to have won the African Player of the Year award — with Kanu winning the award twice (1996 and 1999).
The Black Stars of Ghana remain one of the top African countries in football, having won the AFCON 4 times.
They have also been runners-up at the tournament 5 times.
Ghana have qualified for the FIFA World Cup four times, and at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, they became only the third African team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.
Unfortunately, the Black Stars will always be remembered as the team that almost made history.
At the 2010 World Cup, they were just one spot-kick away from beating Uruguay to become the first-ever African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals, but top scorer, Asamoah Gyan, blazed his penalty over.
Some of the best players that have hailed from Ghana are; Abedi Pele, Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Asamoah Gyan, Thomas Partey, John Mensah, Kwadwo Asamoah, Kevin Prince Boateng, Andre Ayew, and Jordan Ayew.
Unlike most of the countries on this list, the Teranga Lions of Senegal do not have a rich pedigree or title-winning credentials.
The 2002 Golden Generation squad led by the likes of Aliou Cisse, El Hadj Diouf, and Kalilou Fadiga made a run to the AFCON final for the first time in their history but lost in a penalty shootout to Cameroon.
The star-studded squad would go on to make their FIFA World Cup debut a few months later.
Impressively, they defeated defending world champions, France in their opening game.
Moreso, they became only the second African team in history to reach the World Cup quarter-finals. However, they were eventually knocked out by Turkey.
The current Senegal squad will eventually go down in history as the best ever from the West African nation.
It comprises the likes of Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye, Édouard Mendy, Keita Balde, Chekou Kouyate, and Ismaila Sarr.
Managed by the captain of the Golden Generation side of 2002, Aliou Cisse, the Teranga Lions qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and recently won their first-ever AFCON title earlier this year.
The Desert Foxes of Algeria have won two AFCON titles, the first of which they won as hosts in 1990 and the second coming at Egypt 2019.
Algeria have qualified for the FIFA World Cup four times. They defeated defending champions, West Germany on their World Cup debut in 1982.
Controversially, Algeria exited the tournament in the group stages due to dubious match-fixing by West Germany and neighbours, Austria.
They also got knocked out at the group stage of the 1986 World Cup.
This generation was led by the brilliant Rabah Madjer.
After 24 years, the Desert Foxes qualified for the World Cup in 2010. Yet again, they crashed out in the group stages — this time failing to score a single goal.
The 2014 World Cup produced a much better outing as they reached the round of 16 — losing to eventual champions, Germany.
Moreso, at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Algeria became the first African team to score at least 4 goals in a match at a World Cup — doing so against South Korea.
The Desert Foxes have some talented and skillful players who ply their trades in Europe, and their collective efforts have ensured the rising of their nation.
They have quality players such as Riyad Mahrez, Baghdad Bounedjah. Sofiane Feghouli, Islam Slimani, Yacine Brahimi, Raïs M’Bolhi, and Ismael Bennacer.
The team won the 2019 AFCON title hosted by fellow North African rivals, Egypt.
The Atlas Lions of Morocco won their first and only AFCON title in 1976.
They have participated in the FIFA World Cup six times.
Their best result at the World Cup came in 1986, where they became the first and the only African national team to finish top of a group at the World Cup.
In that 1986 World Cup Group F, Morocco finished ahead of England, Portugal and Poland after holding both Poland and England to goalless draws and beating Portugal 3-1.
Thus they became the first African nation — and only the second country from outside Europe and the Americas (after North Korea in 1966 World Cup) — to reach the second round at the World Cup.
In the subsequent round of 16 knockout match, they narrowly lost 1-0 to eventual runners-up, West Germany.
The Atlas Lions went decades as a lackluster football nation.
However, through the efforts of top players such as Yassine Bounou, Hakim Ziyech, Ryad Boudebouz, Achraf Hakimi, Mehdi Benatia, Romain Saïss, Nabil Dirar, Youseff En Nesyri, Noussair Mazraoui, Munir El Haddadi, Sofiane Boufal, Nordin and Sofian Amrabat; their fortunes have turned around in recent years.
8. Côte d’Ivoire
The Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire are one of the top African countries in football because of their continental and international achievements.
The Ivory Coast national team has qualified three times for the FIFA World Cup.
They have also won 2 Africa Cup of Nations titles in 1992 and 2015
Côte d’Ivoire has produced a lot of top footballers that have represented popular European football clubs.
They have produced many African football legends like Kolo Touré, Yaya Touré, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, and Gervinho.
Currently, Ivory has some of the best African footballers, such as Serge Aurier, Franck Kessié, Seko Fofana, Nicolas Pépé, Wilfried Zaha, and Sébastien Haller.
The North African nation has one of the best football leagues in Africa.
Tunisia is one of the top African national football teams, having won one African Cup of Nations as hosts in 2004, making five FIFA World Cups appearances and twenty Africa Cup of Nations tournament appearances.
They are also the second African country to win the FIFA Arab Cup.
Although Mali have never qualified for the World Cup, they are a major youth football power in the world.
Mali usually produced many young African football talents who are regularly scouted by the top European clubs. Seydou Keita and Frédéric Kanouté are popular Malian football legends.
They have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations on 12 occasions, and their best result at the tournament was when they lost in the 1972 final against Congo.
Some of the best footballers in Mali are Amadou Haidara, Yves Bissouma, Moussa Djenepo, and Sékou Koïta.
Mali are definitely one of the top African countries in football, as they are currently ranked 46th in the world.