RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – History makers Algeria and Nigeria are one victory each away from a showdown that would ensure a World Cup semi-finalist from Africa for the first time.
The Algerian Desert Foxes tackle Germany and the Nigerian Super Eagles confront France Monday on the third day of second-round action.
And the winners of the Africa-Europe clashes meet on July 4 in a last-eight match-up at the global football showpiece in Brazil.
Should the two Africans win, then one of them would be guaranteed to make further history by becoming the first ever World Cup semi-finalists from the continent.
Africa has been competing at the World Cup since 1934 with the best achievements being quarter-final places for Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana.
Nigeria became the first African country to reach the second round three times when they finished runners-up to Group F table toppers Argentina.
Stephen Keshi also made history by becoming the first African coach to guide a team into the knockout phase at a World Cup.
After three group-stage exits, Algeria progressed for the first time by finishing second behind Group H winners Belgium.
Nigeria and France will be meeting for the first time at the World Cup while debutants Algeria stunned the then West Germany 2-1 at the 1982 World Cup.
Keshi says his Super Eagles are representing Africa and not just the most populous country on the continent.
“We are the African champions and have a collective responsibility to not only play for our country, but also the continent.”
Veteran Nigeria centre-back and captain Joseph Yobo added: “We have achieved our first goal of reaching the second round.
“Now we must forge ahead to ensure our continent gets the best representation in Brazil.”
Strong, pacey striker Emmanuel Emenike could be a key figure against France after he tormented Bosnia-Hercegovina in a crucial 1-0 triumph.
Bosnian Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic acknowledges that Germany — second once and third twice in the past three World Cups — are formidable rivals.
“They are an outstanding team, so it will be difficult. Indeed, I would go further and say extremely complicated.
“Everyone talks about Algeria and Germany from 1982,” said the coach who played for the then Yugoslavia at that World Cup.
Germany defeated Austria 1-0 in Gijon — a result that ensured both countries advanced at the expense of the Algerians.
After the Germans took an early lead, the teams went through the motions to maintain the 1-0 scoreline that was mutually beneficial as it ensured both qualified in what became known as the “game of shame”.
The Desert Foxes must hope for more goals from striker Islam Slimani, whose headed equaliser against Russia secured a last-16 ticket.
While Algeria and Nigeria look ahead, fellow African qualifiers Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast returned home in disgrace after timid first-round exits.
The Cameroonian Indomitable Lions seemed more interested in bonuses than results and conceded nine goals against Mexico, Croatia and Brazil.
A knee injury sidelined star striker Samuel Eto’o after the first game and the opening-half red carding of Alex Song for striking an opponent smoothed the Croatian path to victory.
An even greater embarrassment for the Lions was the attempted head-butting of Benjamin Moukandjo by team-mate Benoit Assou-Ekotto after an attack broke down late in the same game.
Ghana managed just one point against the USA, Germany and Portugal as the prediction of coach Kwesi Appiah that his Black Stars could win the World Cup proved pie in the sky.
Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng were expelled from the camp for indiscipline and a threatened training boycott over bonuses led to $3 million (2.2m euros) in cash being rushed to Brazil.
Difficult draws contributed to first-round departures by the Ivorian Elephants from the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, but there were no excuses this time with modest Greece deserved winners of the key game.
It was a dismal end for veteran striker Didier Drogba, who started only one match and bowed out of international football on a low note.