Race To Win Round Two Of The African 2022 Qualifiers Hots Up
Over halfway through the second round of Africa’s FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers tournament, ten teams sit at the top of the group standings. However, two matchdays remain in the battle for the final round of the qualification competition. And while clear winners have emerged over the October break for one or two of the competing groups, the top spot is still up for grabs for the majority of groups!
The Confederation of African Football World Cup Qualifiers
The African qualifiers second round comprises 40 teams drawn into ten groups (A to J). Each group consists of four teams playing a round-robin of home and away matches. The games are played over six matchdays during the international breaks - September, October and November 2021. The ten group winners at the end of Round Two progress to the third and final round. From there, the remaining ten squads will play in five home and away ties - the five winners will advance to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
With the second round of the qualifying tournament crossing the crucial halfway stage, the battle over the October window has been fierce...
The Action, Results and Standings
*FIFA world ranking as of September 2021
Alergia (30th), Burkina Faso (62nd), Niger (119th), and Djibouti (185th) are currently contesting Group A. They began the October break with Algeria and Burkina Faso in first and second place on four points each. Niger sat in third place on three points and Djibouti in last on zero.
Alergia stormed their first match against Niger with a commanding 6-1 win. Two goals were, unfortunately, own goals from the visitors. At home against Algeria, Niger fared no better. Algeria dominated again and took the points with a 4-0 finish. Alergia remains in first place on 10 points, with Niger in third still on 3 points.
In a slow starting match, away to Djibouti, Burkina Faso found their feet in the second half to win four goals to nothing. At home, Burkina Faso first took the lead with a header into the back of the net. The Stallions struck home again in the 63rd from a rebound off of the Djibouti goalkeeper. The 2-0 win ensured Burkina Faso maintained second place on the table with 10 points. Djibouti stayed on the bottom with 0 points.
The upcoming November window will see Algeria take on Djibouti and Burkina Faso play Niger. Both teams will be hoping for a win to set them up for their head-to-head on the 14th. The match should be the deciding game for first place and a slot in the third round.
Group B is contested by Tunisia (25th), Zambia (85th), Mauritania (104th), and Equatorial Guinea (131st). At the start of the international window, Tunisia held the lead after two wins from two in September. Zambia followed close behind in second, with Equatorial Guinea in third place and Mauritania on the bottom rung.
During the October break, Tunisia played Mauritania home and away. As expected, the Eagles of Carthage gained a relatively easy 3-0 win during their first head-to-head with the Mauritanian minnows. However, during the return match, the boys in red were held to an unexpected goalless draw. Mauritania gained their first point of the tournament thanks to the heroics of their goalkeeper. The result won't help the Mauritanian squad qualify, but the single point for Tunisia pushed them up to 10 points and closer to qualification.
Meanwhile, Equatorial Guinea hosted Zambia in their first match of the break. The hosts won 2-0, moving them up into second place behind Tunisia. However, Zambia has since filed a complaint with FIFA over the referees handling of the game, which saw ignored infringements and seemingly excessive and unclear use of yellow cards against the Zambian squad. The follow-up match was hard-fought on both sides. The Zambians did well to open the scoring in the 65th minute. But, Equatorial Guinea came back from behind to claim a 1-1 draw in the 82nd, leaving them on 7 points, only three behind Tunisia. Zambia's hopes took a beating, but on 4 points, there's still a faint chance for the team.
Tunisia is up against both Equatorial Guinea and Zambia for their final two games in November. Both rivals will be hoping to force the top team to make mistakes and revive their qualifying chances. However, unless Tunisia draws or loses their games, it looks likely that The Eagles will advance to Round Three.
Nigeria (34th), Cape Verde (77th), Central African Republic (124th) and Liberia (144th) are up against one another in Group C. Before the October fixtures, Nigeria sat in the top spot with two from two wins, followed by Liberia, Cape Verde and the Central African Republic.
In a shock opening match at home for the Nigerians, the small fry squad from Central Africa, Les Fauves, took the games three points from under the Super Eagles noses with some great defensive play and a 90th-minute goal. Nigeria was back on form in the return match and pulled off a comfortable 2-0 win. The Super Eagles maintained their first place position with 9 points, while Les Fauves now sits third on 3 points.
On the other side of the group, Cape Verde had a successful window against Liberia. Despite looking as though the teams would finish with a goalless draw, a sensational last-minute strike ensured Cape Verde took the full three points. In the second meeting, Cape Verde once again left it until the death to take the match. A solitary goal in the 90th gave the squad a very slim victory. Liberia finished the break at the bottom of the table on 3 points. Cape Verde sits on 7, just two points behind Nigeria.
Nigeria will have to work hard to keep Cape Verde from leapfrogging them into the third round during the November break. If both teams win their matches against Liberia and the Central African Republic, respectively, then their meeting on the 14th will be the deciding factor for first place.
Ivory Coast (54th), Cameroon (58th), Malawi (114th) and Mozambique (115th) are together contesting Group D. The table, at the start of the window, saw Ivory Coast in pole position on four points, Cameroon and Malawi on three each and Mozambique last on one.
The close points between the squads didn't last for long. In their first 3-1 match of the break, at home with Mozambique, Cameroon used their heads with all three goals headed into the back of the net. In their follow up meeting away, Cameroon slotted in the only goal of the match, another header in the 68th minute. The squad earned six points altogether, maintaining their position in second place on 9 points. Mozambique still sits in last place on 2 points.
The Ivory Coast team took wins both at home and away against Malawi. On their away leg, The Elephants thrashed Malawi 3-0. Malawi kept the hosts on their toes on the return leg with a 20th-minute equaliser to the home side's 2nd-minute opener. Nonetheless, Ivory Coast edged the game 2-1 with a penalty shot in the 66th. The Elephants ended the window in the top spot on 10 points. Malawi is in third place on 3 points.
In November, the race will be between Ivory Coast and Cameroon for the winning ticket to Round Three. The teams are only separated by one point and face a head-to-head against one another on the 14th.
Group E’s opponents include Mali (61st), Uganda (86th), Kenya (102nd) and Rwanda (128th). At the start of the break, Mali was the group leader on four points, followed by Kenya and Uganda on two points each and Rwanda in last place on one.
Mali was on fire against Kenya at home, beating their rivals 5-0 - four goals in the first half, including a hat-trick from Ibrahima Kone and a final strike in the 85th. In their second meeting, the win over Kenya wasn't as thrilling or high scoring as the Kenyans upped their pace and gave their guests the runaround. However, another goal from Kone was enough to win the match for Mali. The result effectively snuffed out Kenya's qualification chances. Kenya ended the break on 2 points, eight behind group leaders Mali, who sit on 10 points.
Rwanda took on neighbours Uganda at home for their first match of the window. However, Rwanda’s home advantage didn’t pay off as Uganda took the full three points from a goal in the 41st minute. On the return leg, Uganda doubled their victory with another 1-0 result. Uganda now sits on 8 points, two behind Mali. Rwanda sits at the bottom of the table on 1 point.
Mali and Uganda both need to win their next matches against Rwanda and Kenya, respectively. Then, the two will square up in a head-to-head decider for the third round slot.
Group F’s competition is taking place between Egypt (48th), Gabon (88th), Libya (110th) and Angola (129th). Coming into the October break, Libya, following two previous wins, was in first place on six points. Egypt trailed in second place on four points from a win and a draw. Gabon was in third place on one point, and Angola sat last on zero.
After a deadlock in the first half of Egypt's home game against Libya, the Egyptians finally fired one home in the 49th minute. The goal gave Egypt the win and moved them into pole position on the table. During their second away match with Libya, Egypt continued to control the competition with a decisive 3-0 win. The Pharaohs now lead the group on 10 points. Libya sits in second on six.
Angola frustrated their visitors, Gabon, with a 3-1 win, briefly moving them up to third place. However, Gabon fought back in their home game and took the match 2-0 to regain their spot.
If Egypt beat both Gabon and Angola in November or take a win and a draw, the ticket to Round Three will be theirs.
Ghana (53rd), South Africa (73rd), Zimbabwe (113rd) and Ethiopia (134th) are squaring up against one another in Group G. Before the October games, South Africa led the pack on six points. Ghana held second place and Ethiopia third, both on three. Zimbabwe brought up the rear on one point.
South Africa faced Ethiopia away on their first of the break. It was a difficult match on a tough pitch. Despite the conditions and the threat from the Ethiopians in the second half, South Africa took the win 3-1. Their second meeting at home for the South Africans also proved a tough nut to crack, but an own goal from the Ethiopian team gifted South Africa the points. Bafana Bafana maintained their lead with two wins and now sit in first place on 10 points. Ethiopia trail behind in third still on three points.
Ghana took on Zimbabwe and, despite the teams being level on one goal each early in the second half, the squad fired home a total of three goals to take the lead. The return leg saw Ghana conquer the Zimbabweans again with a 1-0 score count. The Ghanaians booted home a penalty in the 31st minute for the win. Ghana's double win gave them 9 points overall, holding their spot in second place. Zimbabwe stayed in last place on one point.
Going into the November break, the final two matchdays are a two-horse race between South Africa and Ghana. South Africa should beat Zimbabwe, and Ghana should cruise through their match against Ethiopia. The decider will be a head-to-head between the group leaders on the 14th.
Senegal (20th), Congo (92nd), Namibia (106th) and Togo (136th) are battling for the top spot in Group H. At the end of the September window, the standings had Senegal in pole position on six points, Namibia in second on four points, followed by Congo and Togo in third and fourth place on one and zero points, respectively.
In the first match of the October window, Namibia was outclassed by Senegal. The Senegalese team controlled the game from the start and dictated the pace. Despite Namibia's counterattacking efforts, they only managed one goal compared to Senegal's four. The second match was a similar story that ended 3-1 to Senegal. The Lions of Teranga maintained their place at the top of the table on 12 points after four wins from four. Namibia dropped to third place on four points.
Togo and Congo took to the field on October 11th and came away with a 1-1 draw. Unfortunately, for Togo, they gave away an own goal and a potential win. Their second match against The Red Devils provided Togo with a better result. With a 2-1 win, The Sparrowhawks climbed up the table into second place on four points. Congo was relegated to fourth on just two points.
Senegal is eight points ahead of their nearest rival, Togo. So, regardless of the outcomes in the November window, the Lions will head to Round Three.
Morocco (33rd), Guinea (76th), Guinea-Bissau (105th) and Sudan (127th) are contesting Group I. They began their third and fourth matchdays with Guinea-Bissau sitting in the top spot on four points, Morocco in second on three, Guinea in third on one, and Sudan in fourth on zero points. Morocco and Guinea started the break with a game in hand each after a military coup in Guinea saw their September bout postponed.
Morocco took the bulls by the horns and thrashed Guinea-Bissau 5-0 in their first outing. It took The Atlas Lions until the 31st minute to break the Djurtus' defence, but the goals kept flowing once they did. On the return leg, Morocco took the match 3-0. The double win put the Lions on 9 points, five ahead of second-placed Guinea-Bissau on four points.
Guinea and Sudan's first head-to-head ended in a 1-1 draw earning both teams one point. Their second outing finished with the same outcome after another draw, though both teams scored two goals on this occasion. Guinea stayed in third on three points, and Sudan finished last again with two points.
Guinea and Morocco finally played their deferred game on October 12th. Guinea displayed a flash of brilliance with a superb goal in the 31st minute - a rocket shot from outside the penalty box. But it wasn't enough to stop the marauding Moroccans, who slotted home four goals to take the win. It was enough to guarantee The Atlas Lions, now on 12 points, their place in Round Three regardless of the following two matchday results.
Group J is contested by the Democratic Republic of Congo (67th), Benin (82nd), Madagascar (100th) and Tanzania (132nd). October's window began with Tanzania and Benin in the top spots with four points each, DR Congo in third with two points and Madagascar in last with zero.
The break kicked off with matches between Tanzania and Benin. The hosts, Tanzania, took aim multiple times during the game but couldn't hit the target. Benin, however, sent home a screamer in the 71st minute to win the game. During their away match, the tide turned for Tanzania, with the winning goal punted home just six minutes into the game. The break ended with Tanzania in the top spot and Benin just behind in second place, both on 7 points with a goal difference of just one.
In their first match of the window, the Leopards put in a solid performance against Madagascar, winning the game 2-0. However, on the return leg, football shrimps Madagascar took the 1-0 victory with the winner slotted home in the first two minutes of the game. DR Congo finished the break on 5 points in third and Madagascar on 1 point in last.
In November, the group leaders both face DR Congo and Madagascar. Each will need to win both of their matches to secure first place. If they are both successful, the top spot will be decided on goal difference.
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