An African World Cup champion?

Now that an African country has won the right to host the World Cup, the next step is for one of the continent's best teams to win the trophy.

No team from Africa has ever reached the semifinals at a World Cup

Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon will be one of the players to watch in South Africa. ((Michael Steele/Getty Images))

Now that an African country has won the right to host the World Cup, the next step is for one of the continent's best teams to win the trophy.

Whether or not that day will come on July 11 in South Africa is uncertain, but some certainly think the opportunity is there for the taking.

"When I say this people laugh, but I believe it," former Ghana great Abedi Pele said. "But here in Africa we will definitely have one team that will go far — and when I say go far, I mean as far as getting the trophy."

Including host South Africa, the continent will have six teams competing at the World Cup against traditional powers like Brazil, Italy and Germany. But not all Africans think Cameroon, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Algeria can win this time around.

Former African Footballer of the Year Patrick Mboma of Cameroon is skeptical because of the nature of African soccer management.

"You are forgetting that these players hail from African soccer federations, hence there is a lot of disorganization," Mboma said. "That's why Africa will always fall short of glory."

Former England coach Steve McClaren, however, believes it's just a matter of time before it finally happens.

"In the future, an African team can win the World Cup," McClaren told The Associated Press. "Whether that will be World Cup 2010, it is hard to predict."

Five of the six World Cup qualifiers will get a chance to showcase their ability at this month's African Cup of Nations in Angola. Players including Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, Ghana midfielder Michael Essien, and Cameroon forward Samuel Eto'o will be representing their countries at the 16-team tournament. South Africa failed to qualify.

African teams have never reached the semifinals at a World Cup, but Cameroon made the quarter-finals in 1990 and Senegal matched that in 2002.

"The Africans should be taken seriously when they talk about winning the World Cup," Eto'o said in an interview with France Football magazine. "When I see our team, I don't understand why we cannot aspire on winning in South Africa.

"Our players are not less than the players of Brazil, Argentina, Spain or France. We should not feel inferior."

Eto'o added that he would be glad to see another African team win the tournament if Cameroon fails.

"I will support all African teams," the Inter Milan striker said. "I would like it so much if one of them managed to win. The non-African teams should work very hard to take this cup away from us."

More than mere sporting glory, African football confederation president Issa Hayatou is looking at the World Cup in South Africa to help the continent achieve greater economic development.

"This World Cup will inspire hope and aspiration throughout Africa," Hayatou said.