Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Teams from the African continent have made steady progress on the sport's biggest stage starting since 1990, when Cameroon became the first team from Africa to reach the quarterfinals.
Nigeria followed up by advancing to the second round of the tournament in 1994 and 1998, before a surprising run to the quarterfinals by Senegal in 2002.
In 2006 it was Ghana's turn to shine, as the Black Stars advanced from a tough group that included Italy and the Czech Republic to reach the second round before bowing out to Brazil.
When the 2010 World Cup was awarded to South Africa, it represented another step forward for the continent as a whole.
Many questioned whether or not the country was fit to host an event of this magnitude, with worker's strikes and slow ticket sales dominating the headlines during the build-up.
But things have gone well so far for the African continent - other than the games themselves.
Much has been written about how important it is that the continent is staging the World Cup, but the performance of its teams is also crucial in establishing Africa's place in the global pecking order.
With six African teams taking part in the competition, surely a few would advance beyond the group stage and possibly further, marking another step forward for African football.
However, after African teams combined to put together a record of 3-10-5 in 18 group stage-matches, Ghana is the only hope left standing.
There are a variety of reasons for the general failure of the African sides, ranging from a tough draw to injuries to poor judgement. But if Ghana is able to become the first African nation to reach the semifinals of the World Cup, it would save the continent's blushes.
South Africa was the victim of timing more than anything else as they picked a bad year to host the World Cup.
Bafana Bafana had much better teams take part in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, led by a prime Benni McCarthy as well as top players like Aaron Mokoena and Shaun Bartlett.
The team didn't play poorly as they went 1-1-1 in Group A, but they still became the first host nation to fail to advance beyond the group stage.
Nigeria was a good bet to finish second in Group B behind Argentina, but following a tough 1-0 defeat to the South American side in their opener, the Super Eagles went up 1-0 on Greece before a foolish red card from Sani Kaita allowed an inferior Greek team to rally for a 2-1 win.
This left Nigeria in a terrible spot, and they could only manage a 2-2 draw with South Korea, despite getting the better of the play.
Not a lot was expected from Algeria in Group C, but they proved tougher than expected as they earned a draw with England and lost in stoppage time to the United States before bowing out.
The same cannot be said of Cameroon, which has to go down as one of the most disappointing teams in the entire World Cup.
Captain Samuel Eto'o bristled at criticism from the legendary Roger Milla prior to the tournament, and he even threatened to withdraw before the team crashed to three defeats in three games.
Ivory Coast was labeled as maybe the best hope for an African semifinalist prior to the World Cup draw, but after being drawn into a group with Brazil and Portugal, those expectations were tempered a bit.
The fact that star striker Didier Drogba suffered a broken arm in a friendly with Japan less than two weeks before the team's opener also didn't help matters.
Ivory Coast's first game came against Portugal, and it was probably the most crucial of the tournament for Les Elephants. But because of his injury, Drogba was limited to just 25 ineffective minutes of action off the bench, and the game finished 0-0.
Even Ghana needed a bit of good fortune to advance on the final day of Group D play. After losing 1-0 to Germany, the Black Stars would have been eliminated had Serbia rallied to tie Australia, 2-2. However, the Socceroos held out for a 2-1 win that now gives the African continent one team to get behind.
The fact that Ghana has moved on despite the absence of its best player, midfielder Michael Essien, should not be overlooked. But the team has used some good fortune and a bit of hard work to get to the next round.
And after a very favorable draw that serves up the United States in the round of 16 and a potential quarterfinal matchup with either Uruguay or South Korea, Ghana's hopes of making history for Africa are very real.
And they can be sure that an entire continent will be watching.