The Biggest Sporting Upsets by African Teams Ever

Posted on

Yesterday, Brazil’s male national team was stunned by an incisive Senegalese squad in a friendly match in Portugal, that ended 4-2. After going down in the 11th minute, to a Lucas Paqueta header, Senegal found their way back into the game via a Habib Diallo volley before Marquinhos handed Senegal a lead they never lost with an own goal. Sadio Mane went on to score two goals that sandwiched a Marquinhos goal in the right goal. The performance, while it was a friendly match, reminded us of some great African sporting upsets that we are highlighting in this article.

Nigeria’s Gold in Atlanta (1996)

Easily one of the biggest sporting moments in African history and without a doubt number one in Nigerian sporting history has to be winning the Olympic gold medal in football in 1996.

When Nwankwo Kanu led the “Dream Team” in 1996, expectations were high for the team but a gold medal did not seem on the cards and the start to the group stage which ended up seeing Nigeria make it out on goal difference was not particularly encouraging.

The real magic of the run started in the semi-final when Nigeria faced a Brazil squad that had beaten them in the group stages and featured rising stars like Ronaldo de Lima and Bebeto. After going down 3-1, the Dream Team clawed to tie the game 3-3 and then won via Golden Goal in extra time on the back of a goal from captain, Kanu.

In the final, an Argentina squad full of stars like Diego Simeone, and Hernan Crespo, got off to a 2-1 lead that was erased by goals from Daniel Amokachi and a stoppage-time winner from Emmanuel Amunike.

Morocco’s inspiring run in Qatar (2022)

To reduce the greatest African run in the World Cup to one game would be criminal so we’re not even going to attempt it. Morocco’s fairytale run at the 2022 Qatar World Cup was what sports are about. On their journey to fourth place, they beat better-ranked teams like Belgium, Portugal, and Spain in what was one of the most entertaining runs by an African team ever.

Cameroon beats Maradona’s Argentina in the World Cup (1990)

Argentine great and consensus best player in the world at the time, Diego Maradona, captained his country to the 1990 World Cup tournament in Italy as the defending champion.

In Argentina’s opening match at the tournament against a Cameroon team playing at only its second World Cup, the tournament’s favorites, Argentina came up short after a second-half header from Francois Omam-Biyik put Cameroon in the lead, while already a man down with one red card. In the minutes after that goal, Cameroon got another sending-off but ultimately succeeded at keeping Argentina and Maradona scoreless.

Argentina went on to have an inspired run and make it to the final but every one of age will always remember that opening game.


Senegal beats defending champions, France in the World Cup (2002)

Also, World champions at the time,  when France came up against Senegal at the start of the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan, they fell short.

Despite France’s team being loaded with some of the best players in the world and confidence that victory would be theirs, they were shocked by a 30th-minute Papa Bouba Diop goal that handed Senegal a lead many expected them to blow in their World Cup debut.

France went on to lose in the group stage while Senegal went on to reach the quarterfinals, following squarely in Cameroon’s footsteps after 1990.

The Springboks Magical Run in the Rugby World Cup (1995)

In what has become one of the greatest moments in sports history, South Africa’s national rugby team made its World Cup debut in 1995, when the newly democratic country hosted the tournament. After missing the first two World Cups in 1987 and 1991 due to anti-apartheid sporting boycotts, going on to win the tournament was extremely impressive. President Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok shirt, went on to present the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, a white Afrikaner, and the gesture was viewed as a big step towards the reconciliation of black and white South Africans.

  • Share