In the recent history of the biggest sporting competition in the world, an African team always seems to cause an upset, throwing a stick in the spokes of nations who underestimate their skills.

In 1990, Cameroon was the first African country to make it to the quarter-finals, almost making it to the semi-finals were it not for Gary Lineker's second penalty goal of the game to make it 3-2 in extra time to England.

In 2010, it was Ghana in South Africa who set the stage alight, eventually losing to Uruguay on penalties following Luis Suárez's handball on the line and Asamoah Gyan's subsequent penalty miss.

Now, while Nigeria are yet to break past the Round of 16, the Super Eagles already boast a hotshot team of stars, including the guns-blazing striker Victor Osimhen.

All of them are young enough to even improve by the time the 2022 World Cup in Qatar rolls around.

Despite this, the experts have rated one team above Nigeria, and put the nation on level-pegging with other teams who may not be as strong.

Cameroon is currently the top-rated African team

The Cameroonian national team has some strong players right now [Pixabay]
The Cameroonian national team has some strong players right now [Pixabay]

Cameroon certainly have history on their side when it comes to being rated as Africa's finest.

The Indomitable Lions are an ever-present threat in the Africa Cup of Nations, most recently proving this by having the heart to come from behind to beat Egypt 2-1 in 2017.

It was a glorious triumph which showed that you can never count out the Indomitable Lions.

Still, in 2018, they missed out on a place in the FIFA World Cup - coming third in the qualifying group shared with Nigeria, Zambia, and Algeria.

The country has undoubtedly produced some incredible players in the past, such as Samuel Eto'o, who Britannica describes as one of the greatest in AFCON's history, due to his record 18 goals in the continental contest.

They do have some strong players right now such as Lyon striker Karl Toko Ekambi and defensive midfielder André Zambo Anguissa.

Still, their stud now and for the foreseeable future is 24-year-old goalkeeper André Onana.

The Ajax shot-stopper spent the summer helping those less-privileged with supplies, adding to his ever-increasing star appeal.

Even with history, stars in the record books, and some very good players in the squad right now, Cameroon have to get past Côte d'Ivoire in World Cup qualification and don't appear to have a team as strong as many other nations.

Nigeria looks to have the strongest squad for 2022

Nigeria has to get past Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, and Liberia in their qualification group [Pixabay]
Nigeria has to get past Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, and Liberia in their qualification group [Pixabay]

As of 4 September, the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings of CAF hold Senegal as the best team in Africa, ranked 20th in the world, with Tunisia back at 27th, and then Nigeria at 31st globally but third in Africa. Cameroon are presently 53rd in the official rankings.

So, savvy onlookers of African national football teams may be surprised to see that, also as of 4 September, Cameroon are the highest-rated team on the continent, sitting with the joint-20th best odds of 150/1 to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

In 32nd, the likes of Nigeria, Egypt, and Senegal aren't as well-favoured at 250/1.

Of course, we're still a couple of years away from the massive tournament, but given how Nigeria’s current squad is valued by Transfermarkt, they look the best set to go further in Qatar.

Wilfred Ndidi, Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, Alex Iwobi, Ola Aina, and Semi Ajayi are all under the age of 26 now and are already well-rated in world football.

Ndidi, especially, is already being classed as an elite-tier defensive midfielder, with the intelligent and intellectual midfielder continuing to grow on the field.

Nigeria has to get past Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, and Liberia in their qualification group, with their likely next-closest competitor to their standing as the best team on the continent also having a reasonably tame group.

Senegal boasts top-class Premier League attacker Sadio Mané as well as speedster Ismaïla Sarr and coveted centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, and they need to place ahead of Congo, Namibia, and Togo in their group.

A key difference between Nigeria's batch of stars and Senegal's top players is the age.

Idrissa Gueye, Koulibaly, and Mané will all be on the other side of 30 in 2022.

Nigeria's five highest-valued players (Ndidi, Osimhen, Chukwueze, Iwobi, and Emmanuel Dennis) will be 26-years-old at the most. Playing regularly for clubs like Leicester City, SSC Napoli, Villarreal CF, and Everton, despite their relatively young ages, they won't be lacking in experience, either.

While an African nation hasn't gone past the quarter-finals of the World Cup yet, the Nigerian squad is developing into a formidable unit.

Could the 2022 World Cup be the year that Nigeria plants a new flag for progression in the tournament?

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