10 best African national football teams of all time

John Dennis

African Men’s National Football teams have represented the continent well since Egypt qualified for the 1934 World Cup in Italy. Since then, Cameroon, Algeria, Senegal, and Morocco have reached various stages in the competition.

World Cup performance is important when ranking the best African national football teams of all time –but it is not the only metric.

We must consider performances in competitions such as the African Cup of Nations and the Olympics. FIFA ranking is also an important metric.

Worth noting that Africa has the largest number of national football teams -54. And this can only mean competition is tough.

So, which teams make it to the top 10 list on the continent?

1. Morocco

Morocco national football team line up
  • Highest FIFA Ranking: 10th (April 1998)
  • Best performance in the World Cup: 4th (2022).
  • Best performance in AFCON: Champions (1976).
  • Best players of all time: Ezzaki Badou, Medhi Benatia, Salaheddine Bassir

At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Morocco achieved a feat no African team had ever achieved. The Atlas Lions reached the semi-finals of the tournament and finished fourth.

The team’s incredible performance assured it of a place in history books as the first African Men’s National team to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.

After the 2022 World Cup, Morocco ranked 11 worldwide in the FIFA Men’s rankings. It is also worth noting that Morocco has the second-most World Cup qualifications (6) in Africa.

Apart from the World Cup heroics, Morocco lifted the AFCON in 1976.

2. Senegal

Senegal national football team line up
  • Highest FIFA Ranking: 18th (April 2023).
  • Best performance in the World Cup: Quarter Finals (2002).
  • Best performance in AFCON: Champions (2021).
  • Best players of all time: Sadio Mane, Henri Camara, Aliou Cisse

Senegal qualified for the World Cup tournament for the first time in 2002, which was held in Korea & Japan.

But the most remarkable thing is that they reached the tournament’s quarterfinals on their first attempt. They became the second team in Africa to play in the quarterfinals of a World Cup.

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Although it took them 16 years to return to the World Cup, the Lions of Teranga qualified back-to-back in 2018 and 2022.

In 2021, the team won its first-ever African Cup of Nations, which helped them rank 18th worldwide on the FIFA Men’s rankings.

3. Tunisia

Tunisia national football team line up
  • Highest FIFA Ranking: 14th (April-May 2018).
  • Best performance in the World Cup: Group Stage.
  • Best performance in AFCON: Champions (2004).
  • Best players of all time: Sadok Sassi, Wahbi Khazri, Khaled Badra

Tunisia first qualified for the World Cup in 1978 in Argentina. Since then, The Carthage Eagles have qualified six times in the World Cup tournaments (1978, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2018, and 2022). It is so unfortunate that Tunisia has never gone past the group stages.

But what makes Tunisia one of Africa’s top national football teams is that it has participated in 20 AFCON tournaments and has been in four editions of the Olympic football tournaments.

In 2004, the team won its first-ever AFCON tournament after hosting it. While Tunisia may be unlucky at the World Cup, their dominance in Africa is unquestionable.

4. Algeria

Algeria national football team line up
  • Highest FIFA Ranking: 15th (October 2014).
  • Best performance in the World Cup: Round of 16 (2014).
  • Best performance in AFCON: Champions (1990 and 2019).
  • Best players of all time: Abdelhafid Tasfaout, Lakhdar Belloumi, Rabah Madjer

Algeria has yet to qualify for the World Cup since its back-to-back qualifications in 2010 and 2014. However, the team has shown it is one of the best on the African continent in various competitions.

For example, The Fennec Foxes went on an unbeaten run of 35 matches, two games shy of matching Italy.

Algeria has won the AFCON twice and has been at the World Cup four times, in 1982, 1986, 2010, and 2014.

5. Egypt

Egypt national football team line up
  • Highest FIFA Ranking: 9th (July-September 2010, December 2010).
  • Best performance in the World Cup: Group Stage.
  • Best performance in AFCON: Champions (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010).
  • Best players of all time: Mohamed Aboutrika, Mohamed Salah, Ahmed Hassan

Egypt was the first African country to qualify for the World Cup in 1934 in Italy. But the Pharaohs have yet to be consistent and have only qualified two more times (1990 and 2018).

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However, one thing that makes them one of the best African national football teams ever is that they have won the African Cup of Nations seven times (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, and 2010). They are the most successful nation in AFCON history.

Egypt ranks 35th worldwide in the FIFA Men’s rankings as of April 2023.

6. Nigeria

Nigeria national football team line up
  • Highest FIFA Ranking: 5th (April 1994).
  • Best performance in the World Cup: Round of 16 (1994, 1998, 2014).
  • Best performance in AFCON: Champions (1980, 1994, 2013).
  • Best players of all time: Jay-Jay Okocha, Rashidi Yekini, Vincent Enyeama

Nigeria qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 1994. The team qualified again in 1998, 2002, 2010, 2014, and 2018.

If you consider consistent performances, Nigeria is the African team that has done the best in the World Cup. The Super Eagles reached the round of 16 thrice in 1994, 1998, and 2014.

After failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2022, Nigeria’s ranking dipped five places to rank at 40 in the FIFA rankings of April 2023.

7. Cameroon

Cameroon national football team line up
  • Highest FIFA Ranking: 11th (November 2006 – January 2007, November – December 2009).
  • Best performance in the World Cup: Quarterfinals (1990).
  • Best performance in AFCON: Champions (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, and 2017).
  • Best players of all time: Thomas N’Kono, Roger Milla, Samuel Eto’o

Cameroon was the first African country to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup when they played in 1990. 

Moreover, the Indomitable Lions are the only African country with more World Cup qualifications (8). They qualified in 1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010, 2014, and 2022.

Cameroon is also a force in Africa. They won five AFCON championships in 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, and 2017, making them Africa’s second-most successful national team.

As of 2023, Cameroon ranks 42nd worldwide in the FIFA Men’s ranking.

8. Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast national football team line up
  • Highest FIFA Ranking: 12th (February 2013, April-May 2013).
  • Best performance in the World Cup: Group stages (2006, 2010, 2014).
  • Best performance in AFCON: Champions (1992, 2015).
  • Best players of all time: Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Laurent Pokou
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Ivory Coast first qualified for the World Cup in 2006. They then had an excellent run and qualified again in 2010 and 2014.

And in 2015, they built on their performance at the World Cup to win the AFCON championship for the second time in their history. As of April 2023, Ivory Coast ranks 45 worldwide in the FIFA Men’s ranking.

9. Ghana

Ghana national football team line up
  • Highest FIFA Ranking: 14th (April-May 2007, February 2008).
  • Best performance in the World Cup: Quarterfinals (2010).
  • Best performance in AFCON: Champions (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982).
  • Best players of all time: Michael Essien, Anthony Yeboah, Abedi Pele

Ghana has always been one of the strongest national football teams in Africa. After qualifying for the World Cup in 2006 for the first time, the Black Stars have been consistent and only missed out in 2018.

The team has played in 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2022. However, Ghana ranks 60 worldwide in the FIFA Men’s ranking as of April 2023.

Although Ghana has been excellent at World Cup qualifiers, they have struggled on the continent. Indeed, the Black Stars won AFCON four times in 1963, 1965, 1978, and 1982. However, the team is yet to win the competition four decades later.

10. South Africa

South Africa national football team line up
  • Highest FIFA Ranking: 16th (August 1996).
  • Best performance in the World Cup: Group Stage (1998, 2002, 2010).
  • Best performance in AFCON: Champions (1996).
  • Best players of all time: Benni McCarthy, Patrick Ntsoelengoe, Doctor Khumalo

South Africa has been at the World Cup thrice, in 1998, 2002, and 2010. Their 2010 qualification was automatic because they were the host nation.

But unfortunately, South Africa was knocked out at the group stages in 2010. Since then, the Bafana Bafana has struggled in Africa and on the world stage but remains competitive.

As of 2023, South Africa ranks 66 worldwide in the FIFA Men’s rankings.

Have your say

To rank these teams, we used statistics from the largest football competition in the world, the World Cup, Africa’s premier competition, AFCON, the Olympics, and FIFA rankings over the years.

Do you agree with this list? We would love your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions on this topic.

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