Ranking Africa's 20 Best World Cup Goals
Africa’s World Cup history hasn’t been as glorious as it perhaps should have been. Despite producing many magnificent players, the continent only have three quarter-final appearances to show for their talent.
African sides have, however, produced their fair share of superb goals. The top 20 are celebrated this feature.
This list has been compiled with consideration to both context and content. The match and the consequences of the goal have been acknowledged, while the pure aesthetics of the goal, the skill and the spectacle have also played an important role in the ranking process.
Could any of the African players heading to Brazil this summer add their name to this terrific collection?
20. Siasia vs. Argentina 1994
Nigeria may have lost out to Argentina in their Group D battle at the 1994 World Cup, but the Super Eagles certainly started well after a Samson Siasia opener.
The forward, who later managed the national side before being fired in October 2011, demonstrated considerable skill to continue the Super Eagles’ momentum.
Having received the ball outside the Albiceleste area, he dummied the defender, playing the ball through his legs to make space, before chipping the ball over Luis Islas diving low to his feet.
The Super Eagles held the lead for 13 minutes, before Claudio Caniggia’s quick brace reaffirmed the natural order.
19. Finidi vs. Greece 1994
Having conceded eight in their previous two matches, against Argentina and Bulgaria, Greece were neither ominous opponents nor particularly confident opposition.
Nonetheless, Nigeria were under pressure to bounce back having been defeated by the South Americans in their second match.
Finidi George’s Dog celebration naturally stole the headlines after his 45th-minute opener, but the goal was pretty special as well.
In a fantastic counter-attacking move, Emmanuel Amuneke tore through the centre of the Greek defence before, at the last minute, laying it off to Finidi who calmly lobbed the advancing Christos Karkamanis.
18. Dhouieb vs. Mexico 1986
Not only was this Africa’s first-ever victory on the world stage, it also featured one of the finest goals ever seen by one of the continent's stars on the international stage.
Tunisia manager Abdelmajid Chetali inspired his team at half-time with some choice, pertinent contributions. Having been 1-0 down at the break, the Eagles of Carthage rallied round and managed to secure a 3-1 victory over Mexico.
The victory was confirmed in the 87th minute when Mokhtar Dhouieb latched onto a sumptuous through ball before lifting the ball over the onrushing Jose Reyes.
17. Bouzaiene vs. Belgium 2002
A set piece right out of the top drawer here from Tunisian defender Raouf Bouzainene.
The Maghrebi player didn’t have a particularly memorable career—in France, Italy and his homeland—but there was one key highlight, coming in the 2002 World Cup.
In the North Africans’ second group match, against Belgium, the balding Bouzaiene stood up to send a perfect free-kick into the top corner of Geert De Vlieger’s goal.
16. Khairi vs. Portugal 1986
Morocco and Tunisia have, between them, enjoyed limited success on the world stage.
Their highlight, however, is surely the Atlas Lions’ 3-1 victory over Portugal in 1986. It was a victory that helped them top Group F, ahead of both England and Poland.
This stunning goal from Abderrazak Khairi was the pick of Morocco’s three against the Seleccao.
Mustapha El Haddaoui sent a deep, searching ball across the Portuguese box. The cross, high and looping, was met by the FAR Rabat forward who met the ball on the volley. (Watch in the embedded video from 0:50)
15. Kalou vs. Serbia 2006
In the Cote d’Ivoire’s first-ever World Cup appearance, they were pooled in a fiendishly difficult group alongside Holland, Argentina and Serbia & Montenegro.
Closely fought defeats against the first two guaranteed the Elephants’ elimination, but they were clearly keen to leave a lasting impression.
They fell two goals down against Serbia in their final group game, before staging an unlikely, breathless comeback.
A brace from Aruna Dindane drew them level, before Bonaventure Kalou’s late, emphatic penalty confirmed a magnificent victory.
That goal came in the 86th minute—few Ivorians who witnessed the last hour of that contest will ever forget it.
14. Amokachi vs. Greece 1994
This one was just stupendous.
Amokachi demonstrated both his strength and his pace with a miraculous solo goal against Greece in 1994. Admittedly, as we witnessed early with Finidi, the Greeks didn’t provide the greatest resilience, but this moment should be celebrated for its individuality and its flawless execution.
The former Everton man surged forward past four defenders, riding two challenges, before hammering home from outside the area.
Watch it…then watch it again…and again.
13. Gyan vs. Serbia 2010
Asamoah Gyan has contributed his fair share of magical World Cup moments for Ghana—expect the Black Stars forward to feature regularly in this list.
While other goals might have been more aesthetically pleasing, there won’t be too many that can be deemed more important than his late penalty against Serbia in 2010.
The Eastern Europeans were supposedly one of the tournament’s dark horses, but Ghana weren’t cowed.
The match—which pitted Black Stars boss Milovan Rajevac against the land of his birth—was tight, and in the end, it took Gyan’s composure from the spot to seal the win.
The West Africans earned the penalty following a handball from the hapless Zdravko Kuzmanovic.
12. Hadji vs. Norway 1998
While Sofiane Feghouli and Yacine Brahimi may well be an exciting dual creative force for Algeria this summer, neither man is a patch on the last great Maghrebi playmaker, Mustapha Hadji.
The midfielder offered imagination, creativity, agility, superb balance and gallons of flair.
His finest hour arguably came at the 1998 World Cup when, in his peak, he starred for Morocco. The highlight was a superb solo goal against Norway in the group stage.
11. Milla vs. Russia 1994
Cameroon won’t want to be reminded of their 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Russia—it was almost a bad day all-round for the Indomitable Lions.
The only exception was Roger Milla, who, in finding the net, broke his own record for the oldest scorer in the tournament.
The 42-year-old striker entered the fray as a half-time substitute and made an instant contribution, scoring in less than a minute.
It is unlikely that his record will be broken anytime soon.
10. Njanka vs. Austria 1998
Cameroon’s latter exploits in the World Cup take a backseat to the magnificent moments of 1990, but nonetheless, there are a few gems amidst the malaise.
This goal, by Pierre Njanka, represents arguably the pick of the bunch.
Njanka, a defender who played for Olympic Mvolye in the Cameroonian local league, was an unlikely contender for goal of the tournament.
But what a strike…!
9. Omam-Biyik vs. Argentina 1990
Cameroon’s 1-0 victory over reigning champions Argentina in the opening game of the 1990 tournament will always be remembered as one of the World Cup’s most stunning moments.
The Indomitable Lions, making their first appearance in the tournament, were not intimidated by their illustrious opponents and set about brutalising them into submission.
They finally broke South American resolve in the 67th minute when the powerful Francois Omam-Biyik leapt above the Albiceleste defence to head home past the beleaguered Argentine stopper.
The holders had no reply.
8. Belloumi vs. West Germany 1982
Algeria’s victory over Germany in 1982 remains one of Africa’s greatest victories at the continental high table.
Their opening goal, coming via European Cup-winner Rabah Madjer was cancelled out, 15 minutes later, by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Lesser sides might have wilted following such a setback, but not Algeria.
After a magnificent 25 seconds of excellent possession football, Lakhdar Belloumi, another of the outstanding individuals in that side, fired home from close range following a superb cross from Salah Assad.
The Desert Foxes clung on for a famous victory.
7. Tshabalala vs. Mexico 2010
Peter Drury was been mocked for his hyperbolic “a goal for all of Africa” comment, but his theatrical response to Siphiwe Tshabalala’s strike does capture much of the drama of the moment and the zeitgeist of South Africa 2010.
It was an emphatic finish and an incredibly memorable moment.
Heading into the tournament, there was a genuine fear that Bafana Bafana would be the worst-ever World Cup hosts. As it turns out, they were history’s first home-based nation to be eliminated in the group stage, but they didn’t embarrass themselves, as had been the pre-tournament concern.
Tshabalala’s powerful finish—the cumulation of a fine counter-attacking move—both relieved tension on the fanbase and seemed to convince South Africa’s players that they wouldn’t just be Group A’s whipping boys.
Ultimately, they bowed out with an admirable four points, including a memorable victory against France.
6. Camara vs. Sweden 2002
Many expected that Senegal’s fairy-tale run in the 2002 World Cup would come to an end against Sweden in the Round of 16. The Lions of Teranga had let a 3-0 lead slip in their unconvincing group draw against Uruguay, while the Northern Europeans had escaped from the tournament’s Group of Death.
Senegal showed their resilience by equalising an early Henrik Larsson opener via Henri Camara.
The then-Sedan forward sealed the victory in extra time with a Golden Goal winner. It could all have been so different, however, as moments beforehand, Anders Svensson had almost secured the victory for the Swedes after a dazzling pirouette.
The BBC described the moment as such: “In the 103rd minute, Camara, who had earlier scored Senegal's equaliser, latched on to Pape Thiaw's clever backheel, ghosted past Johan Mjallby and netted off the post.”
5. Gyan vs. USA 2010
In their two World Cup appearances to date, Ghana have had their fair share of late winners, dramatic moments and sizzling excitement.
While their heartbreaking late anguish against Uruguay in the 2010 quarter-final is their most vivid World Cup moment, few Black Stars fans will want to remember that particular torment in a hurry.
Asamoah Gyan’s extra-time winner against the United States in the previous round is a much more pleasurable souvenir.
Beneath the watching eyes of Bill Clinton, the former US president, Gyan broke the deadlock following a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes.
The striker showed superb upper-body strength and exceptional technical skill to fire home past Tim Howard in the 93rd minute.
4. Diao vs. Denmark 2002
While Senegal relished in their role as plucky underdog, this goal proved that they couldn’t half play a bit too when they wanted to.
It remains, aesthetically, my favourite African World Cup goal.
A Danish offensive ends thanks to a superb tackle from the unlikely defender Henri Camara, and he unleashes Diouf who flicks the ball to Salif Diao. The soon-to-be Liverpool man then puts Denmark on the back foot with a delicious pass to Kalilou Fadiga.
The Europeans, carved open and struggling to track Senegalese movement, make no account for Diao’s immense run through the heart of the pitch, attempting to keep up with Fadiga. He receives the ball inside the Danish box and fires past Thomas Sorensen whilst holding off two defenders.
3. Milla vs. Colombia 1990
Roger Milla had clearly been doing his homework.
The veteran Cameroon forward appeared to have scouted Colombian keeper Rene Higuita’s flamboyant and, quite frankly, reckless decision-making outside his own box. Milla spent portions of their last-16 battle in 1990 watching and waiting for Higuita to make a blunder.
Inevitably, it came.
El Loco tried one shimmy too many and Milla nipped in. The striker dispossessed the wayward stopper and finished nervelessly when faced with an open net.
It was the second time he had scored during that contest and, in capitalising from Higuita’s error, he ensured that Cameroon would be Africa’s first representatives in the World Cup quarter-final.
The celebration wasn’t bad either…
2. Diop vs. France 2002
The finish itself—a sloppy bundle past Fabien Barthez—was nothing special, but the counter-attack that preceded was both vivid and ruthlessly effective.
Beyond the mere real-time outworking of events, Papa Bouba Diop’s goal against France—the only one of the game—was responsible for an African World Cup giant-killing rivalled only by Cameroon in 1990.
I would argue that considering the status of France in 2002, this was even greater.
The world watched on in stunned silence as El-Hadji Diouf carried the ball rapidly down the left flank, tearing through Les Bleus’ ageing rearguard before sending in a delightful cross for Diop to touch into the goal.
1. Oliseh vs. Spain 1998
Sunday Oliseh’s late rocket against Spain was special on so many levels.
It was a late match-winner against illustrious opponents in Nigeria’s opening game of a World Cup. It capped off a thrilling game and ended a contest that was one of the most exciting of France 1998.
On a broader scale, it was the final stunning outing of Nigeria’s Golden Generation. Having won both the African title and the Olympic gold in the previous four years, this was an awesome collection of individually talented stars.
This victory set them up to win the group, before unravelling against Denmark in the Round of Last 16.