By Mike Collett
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 18 (Reuters) - FIFA should consider increasing the number of African teams in future World Cup finals from the current five, the president of the Ghana FA, Kwesi Nyantakyi told Reuters on Friday.
Despite some disappointing World Cup performances in recent finals, Nyantakyi said in an interview that the top African teams were now on a par with many European ones.
"Based on the overall performances of African teams in recent years in many competitions, Africa really deserves more," Nyantakyi said.
"In the 2006 World Cup an African team was the only one from Asia, Africa, and North and Central America to make it to the second round. Only Ghana did that.
"Many European teams continually fail to get beyond the first phase of the competition. Africa has 52 countries, Europe has 53 countries and Europe normally has 14 to 16 teams in the finals and we should get at least half of that number," he added.
European nations will comprise 13 of the 32 sides at next year's World Cup in Brazil while Africa will have five teams.
"I think we should have about eight teams by now because our teams have excelled in other competitions like the Olympic Games and FIFA junior titles," Nyantakyi said.
"Obviously 2014 is too soon, but we should look at Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. As Africans we need to thank FIFA for increasing our allocation from one to two, to three to five. But now the time has come to pressure FIFA for more."
A record six finalists from the continent appeared in the 2010 tournament, five qualifiers and hosts South Africa.
None but Ghana, who were a penalty-kick away from the semi-finals, made it past the first group stage but despite that relative failure, Iya Mohamed, the president of the Cameroon FA and a member of FIFA's World Cup organising committee, agreed Africa should have more representation in the finals.
"At the moment I cannot speak from a position of strength as Cameroon have failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations here in South Africa this month," he told Reuters.
"But the quality of African football has improved massively at both club and international level. I agree most African teams are now at the level of most European teams and can beat them.
"I am convinced that there should be a fairer division and we should get at least six or seven teams. This cannot happen overnight and must take its course.
"But by 2022 in Qatar I would think it could change. We must also keep improving our performances so that we have solid arguments on which to claim more places."
Egypt were the first African team to play in the finals in 1934 before the concept of a modern qualifying competition was established. It was not until 1970 that another African team appeared at the finals when Morocco where given a spot from the first continental qualifying competition.
The Confederation of African Football has backed off in recent years on forcing the issue of more places because of poor World Cup performances from African countries, although Nyantakyi believes the debate should be re-started.
"At least we can start talking to FIFA about this again even though we know it won't happen tomorrow." (Editing by Alison Wildey)