Morocco made history as the first African and Arab team to reach the World Cup semi-finals.
Morocco has opened the doors for an African team to win the World Cup, the Confederation of African Football said, following the Atlas Lions’ remarkable run to the semi-finals in Qatar.
“It is the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup that an African nation has qualified for the semi-finals. Our objective of ensuring that an African Nation wins the FIFA World Cup is alive and within reach,” said CAF President Patrice Motsepe at a press briefing in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Cameroon, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Ghana represented Africa in the recently concluded Qatar 2022 tournament.
Morocco made history by becoming the first African country to advance to the semi-finals. The Atlas Lions stunned Belgium in the group stage, then defeated two more powerful European teams in the knockout stage, Spain and Portugal, before losing to France in the semi-finals.
Motsepe added that he believes a team from the continent can reach the 2026 World Cup final.
“Morocco opened the door by reaching the semi-finals this month and I am confident an African nation will go further at the next World Cup,” he said.
“The main objective of CAF (Confederation of African Football) is for an African nation to win the World Cup and that goal is within reach.”
The 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico will have a 48-team field, allowing nine to 10 African countries to qualify, up from five in Qatar.
CAF president also praised Cameroon and Tunisia for shock group victories over five-time World Cup winners Brazil and twice champions France respectively.
“We should be proud of what Cameroon and Tunisia achieved. These and other African countries must learn from Morocco,” said the CAF president.
Despite the victories, Cameroon and Tunisia did not advance past the first round, but Senegal made it to the last 16 before being knocked out by England.
Senegal, the current African champions, suffered a major setback prior to the tournament when star forward Sadio Mane was forced to withdraw due to injury.
Motsepe added that CAF will continue to invest in football schools, and youth academies for boys and girls in order to improve the quality of football on the continent, including trainers, coaches, and referees.
“We are making significant progress in ensuring that African football is self-supporting and globally competitive. We will continue to use football as a tool to unite people from different races, ethnic groups and religious backgrounds and to contribute to improving the social-economic and living conditions of all people,” he said.