Egypt's problems arguably began when star man Mohamed Salah was injured in the Champions League final. This not only disrupted his preparation for the World Cup but also saw him miss the first match against Uruguay. The Pharaohs endured a late, heart-wrenching 1-0 loss and that seemed to sap all their energy and momentum for the remainder of the group matches. They lost 3-1 to Russia, and even the unfancied Saudi Arabia managed to win three points against them.
Of all the African teams at the tournament this year, Morocco probably had the least hope of progression, as they found themselves in a group that also included European heavyweights Spain and Portugal. Hervé Renard's men must have felt that they could gain an early advantage in the group when they faced Iran in the opener. That went horribly wrong as they fell to a shock defeat, which effectively ended their hopes of qualifying from the group.
The Atlas Lions cannot be said to have been unimpressive, but they could not produce the results they needed. They lost 1-0 to Portugal and drew 2-2 against Spain to seal their fate.
There had reportedly been a feeling inside the Nigerian camp prior to the finals that this year might have seen the best performance by a Nigerian team at the World Cup. This was borne not just out of the impressive composition of the playing squad, but also that this was – as was said – the first time in years when the Super Eagles had no issues with player allowances.
The extra hype that followed the launch of their famous kit was all deflated when they underwhelmed in a 2-0 loss to Croatia. A much better showing against Iceland secured three vital points in their second match, but they were wasteful against Argentina as they lost 2-1 and consequently made an early exit from Russia.
Much like Morocco, the fate of fellow North Africans Tunisia might have been sealed the moment the group stage draw was made. In this case, Belgium and England were the big impediments to the hopes of an African side. Despite putting in an impressive shift against the England in their first match, a prolific Harry Kane proved too much for Tunisia as the Three Lions emerged 2-1 winners.
Belgium were an entirely different proposition. The Red Devils were rampant in a 5-2 win, which officially knocked the Eagles of Carthage out of the World Cup. A 2-1 win over Panama in their final match merely proved consolation for an otherwise unfruitful campaign.
Senegal were deemed by many to be the strongest of the African sides. They enhanced this reputation with an impressive performance in a 2-1 win over Poland in the first match of Group H.
The Lions of Teranga would have secured progression with victory over Japan but they could only draw 2-2. This left them with the uphill task of needing to overcome a tricky Colombia side and hoping for favours from Poland against Japan. The Poles did indeed beat Japan, but Colombia put on a gritty show to win 1-0 against Aliou Cissé’s men, to ensure that no African team will feature in the knockout rounds of this year’s World Cup.