When Cameroon reached the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup, experts became convinced the African game was finally on the path of consistent progress.
With an exclusive club of seven countries--Argentina, Brazil, England, Germany, France, Italy and Uruguay--having won the World Cup in the tournament's 80-year history, breaking their vice-like hold on the trophy would end the predictability to the countries likely to ascend the champion's platform.
But African teams have flattered to deceive since Cameroon's exploits in Italy.
Nigeria's Super Eagles had world-class players during their World Cup debut in 1994. But a patent lack of experience, losing narrowly to Italy in the second round, was their undoing.
Their vitality and invention at that tournament appeared to be the harbinger of greater things to come. But subsequent World Cup performances, in 1998 and 2002, never came close to the exquisite quality of their first.
Senegal, in their first and only World Cup appearance in 2002, equalled Cameroon's quartet-final performance at Italia '90 and looked set to join the group of African teams able to compete on equal terms with the aristocrats of the world game.
But the ensuing years, which have been marked by political upheaval in the country's football federation, have witnessed their shocking decline, as the Lions of Teranga have failed to qualify for the biannual African Cup of Nations.
And the 2006 World Cup marked a significant period of regression in the African game, with four out of five teams being knocked out in the opening stages, with only Ghana reaching the knockout phase, where they lost to a less than impressive Brazil.
Four years on from Germany, the promise of an African football renaissance, during the first World Cup on African soil, looks a more distant prospect, despite the fact that the continent has world-class players that can compete with the very best.
With several federations in the continent plagued by incompetent and corrupt officials, who are unwilling and unable to meet the challenges of football in the 21st century, realising the aim of winning a World Cup is becoming a harder task.
Ivory Coast, making its second World Cup appearance at this month's finals, with top-quality players like Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Eboue, Salomon Kalou, Kolo and Yaya Toure, serves as a classic case.
Since Frenchman Henri Michel took the Elephants to Germany, the Ivorian Football...