Ten African Nations Take A Step Closer to the 2022 World Cup
Forty teams contested Round Two of Africa's qualification tournament; only ten remain. The victors, Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Egypt, Ghana, Senegal, Morocco and the Democratic Republic of Congo, now face the third round in the last battle for five spots at the FIFA 2022 World Cup Qatar.
The Confederation of African Football World Cup Qualifiers
The African 2022 qualifiers consist of three qualification rounds. The first two have been contested by fifty-four nations over the last two years, leaving just ten teams to compete in Round Three.
Round One pitted twenty-eight teams (ranked 27 to 54 in the FIFA rankings) against one another in home-and-away matches over two legs. Fourteen winners advanced to the second round.
Round Two comprised forty teams - the fourteen winners from Round One and teams ranked 1 to 26 - drawn into ten groups (A to J). Each group consisted of four teams playing a round-robin of home and away matches. The games were played over six matchdays during the international break of September, October and November 2021. The ten group winners will now advance to the third and final round in 2022.
Round Three will see the remaining ten squads 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 all wrapped up, let's look back at how the ten victorious teams did over the November window...
Round Two Winners
Group A winner Algeria began the November break ahead of closest rival Burkina Faso on goal difference only. With only two matches each remaining, both teams were facing an upward battle. Algeria took on Djibouti in their first match of the break, while Burkina Faso faced Niger. Djibouti ranked 185th and yet to gain any points on the table, fell 4-0 to the Algerians, giving them three points and putting pressure on Burkina Faso in their match against Niger. Having beaten Niger 2-0 in October, the Burkinabé were predicted to win. But, they gave away a penalty that led to an early lead for Niger. The Burkinabé pulled one back to equalise in the 55th but could not find the back of the net again before the end of the match. Gaining just a single point, Burkina Faso lagged behind Algeria by two.
In their final match of the second round, Algeria and Burkina Faso faced one another. The Greens needed only a draw to win their spot in the third round; The Stallions needed a win. It was a hard-fought match, both sides determined to conquer. Algeria's Riyad Mahrez broke the deadlock in the 21st with a squared ball inside the box. Burkina Faso fired back with an equaliser from Gustavo Sangac in the 37th, leaving the match level at halftime. After the break, Algeria's Sofiane Feghouli doubled the squads lead and, heading towards full time, it looked like the team might win. But, in the 81st, Issoufou Dayo levelled the game with a penalty. Despite Burkina Faso's efforts, they couldn't do enough to leapfrog Algeria into first, and the single point from the draw gave the Algerians their ticket to the final round.
Tunisia won Group B at the end of the November break, but it wasn't an easy ride for the 25th ranked team. The Tunisian squad led the pack with 10 points at the start of the window, three points clear of 131st ranked Equatorial Guinea. However, in a head to head on November 13th, minnows Equatorial Guinea made history with a 1-0 defeat over football powerhouse Tunisia. While the Tunisians controlled most of the game and took more shots at goal, they didn't convert any of their opportunities. On the other hand, Equatorial Guinea scored a single goal from a corner in the 81st, courtesy of Pablo Ganet. The National Thunder squad took all three points and drew level with Tunisia on 10 points.
Going into the final match of the second round, Tunisia needed a win over Zambia to win. Equatorial Guinea, level on points but behind on goal difference, required both a win and Tunisia to suffer a draw or a defeat. On the day, the Equatorial Guineans only managed a 1-1 draw against Mauritania, who picked up their first point of the entire six-match tournament. With goals from Assia Laidouni in the 18th, Mohamed Drager in the 31st and Ali Maaloul in the 43rd, Tunisia picked up more than enough points to win the group and book their place in the third round.
Group C victor Nigeria battled with rival Cape Verde for the top spot during the final window of the round. Entering the break on 9 points to Cape Verde's 7, Nigeria needed a draw and a win across their matches with Liberia and Cape Verde to secure their place in first. Cape Verde needed two wins to steal the ticket to the third round. On November 13th, Nigeria won against last-placed Liberia with a 2-0 score. Cape Verde vanquished the Central African Republic 2-1. On 12 and 10 points, respectively, it was the final head-to-head between the pair that was to be the decider.
Nigeria started their final match of the round with a bang; they took the lead with a low finish goal from Victor Osimhen in the first minute. The Blue Sharks immediately went on the offensive and found the equaliser just five minutes later via Stopira. Both teams fought to find another goal to take the win, but neither could add any more. The Super Eagles, however, had done enough to get them through to Round Three.
Cameroon began Group D's final matchdays in second place, one point below Ivory Coast, who sat 10 points. In their opening match of the break, Cameroon picked up three vital points against Malawi. Down to ten men following John Banda's red card in the 21st, Malawi was thrashed 4-0. The Indomitable Lions' Victor Aboubakar opened the scoring from a penalty shot 23 minutes into the game, and Zambo Anguissa closed out the first half with the second goal. Substitute Christian Bassogog made the final two shots in the dying minutes. Later that same day, Ivory Coast's Max Gradel, Maxwell Cornet and Jean Michael Seri gave Ivory Coast a 3-0 win over Mozambique. The points on the board registered 13 for Ivory Coast and 12 for Cameroon.
The decider for first place was a head-to-head between the two on November 16th; Cameroon needed nothing less than a win to pip Ivory Coast to the post. They started the match strongly, pressuring The Elephants and pinning them to their half. The pressure paid off, and Karl Toko Ekambi belted home the opener in the 21st minute. Ivory Coast responded by turning the pressure back onto the hosts. But, on this occasion, The Indomitable Lions held their nerve and held off Ivory Coast to secure the match points and the ticket to the third round.
Mali led Group E into the final window on 10 points, two ahead of their nearest rival, Uganda. The Malians bumped up their points to 13 during their first match of the break against last-placed Rwanda. The 3-0 win, against Rwanda's ten men following a red card for Djihad Bizimana in the 8th minute, came courtesy of Moussa Djenepo and Ibrahim Kone's first-half goals and Kalifa Coulibaly's 88th-minute finisher. Meanwhile, Uganda played Kenya, managing just a draw and one point, seeing them drop four points behind and ensuring Mali's qualification to the third round. Mali and Uganda faced off for the final match, in which Mali won 1-0 via another Khalifa Coulibaly goal in the 18th. But, as The Eagles had qualified already, the win was just the icing on the cake.
Group F's Egypt started the November window on 10 points, four clear of second-placed Libya and five ahead of third-placed Gabon. To stay ahead of the pack, they needed a win and a draw. Gabon and Libya were the first to battle it out on November 12th, both needing a win to keep their qualification dreams alive. In the end, Gabon pipped Libya to the post and into second place with a 1-0 win. Later that day, Egypt's 2-2 draw against last-placed Angola gave Gabon hope.
Egypt, at home, took on Gabon in a final deciding match. The Pharaohs opened the scoring in the first four minutes with a penalty put away by Mohammed Magdy. Gabon fought back to equalise with a shot on target from Jim Allevinah in the opening minutes of the second half. However, a deflected goal past Gabon's own keeper by Johann Oblang cost the Gabonese dearly - Egypt, with a narrow victory, finished top of Group F unbeaten and qualified for Round Three.
Ghana edged South Africa to win Group G and their place in the third round in the final match of the window. At the beginning of the break, South Africa led the group on 10 points with Ghana in second place on 9 points. Ghana missed out on three points in a 1-1 draw with Ethiopia on November 11th, while South Africa extended their lead to three points with a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe.
The final deciding game between the two was on the 14th in Cape Coast, Ghana. South Africa needed a draw to keep the top spot, whereas Ghana needed a win. South Africa was slow to start while Ghana threatened the Bafana Bafana goal on numerous occasions in the first half an hour. Then, a moment came in the 33rd when Ghana's Daniel Amartey was awarded a controversial penalty after an implied foul by South Africa's Rushine De Reuck. Andre Ayew belted the penalty home to give the Ghanans the lead. South Africa upped their game in the second half, creating multiple opportunities, but none hit home. The final 1-0 result drew The Black Stars level with South Africa on points and gave them the win on overall goals for.
Senegal entered Group H's final matchdays, having already qualified for the third round. With four wins from four, the Sengalese sat in first place on 12 points, eight ahead of nearest rival Togo. They finished the contest unbeaten with a 1-1 draw against Togo and a 2-0 win over Congo, though the draw smashed their 100% record.
Morocco also entered the November window as Group I's winner, with four wins from four and 12 points on the scoreboard. The Moroccan's group opponents Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sudan, on 4, 3 and 2 points, were left trailing before the break started. With a 3-0 win against Sudan and a 3-0 win over Guinea to complete the round, Morocco only extended their 100% lead even further.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC of CONGO
The Democratic Republic of Congo started the international break in third place on just five points, behind Benin in second place and Tanzania in first - both on 7 points. On their first matchday of the window, DR Congo played group leader Tanzania. Meanwhile, second-placed Benin played last-placed Madagascar. The Congolese team, against the run of play, scored the match's first goal with a counter-attacking run and strike into the net from Gael Kakuta. Two more goals followed in the second half from Nathan Fasika and Ben Malango, giving The Leopards a 3-0 win. Benin also won their match 2-0. The two teams moved up the scoreboard while Tanzania dropped down to third and out of the running.
The decider between DR Congo and Benin took place between the two in Lingwala, Kinshasa, the capital of DR Congo. With the home advantage, The Leopards, who needed a win, opened the scoring via Dieumerci Mbokani's penalty goal, taking the lead over Benin, who only needed a draw to win. Benin almost found the equaliser during the first-half stoppage time, but the Congolese keeper tapped the ball over the bar with his fingertips. During the second half, the Leopards dominated the field and finally doubled their lead with a header from Ben Malango. The win saw DR Congo win by a point.
The third round of the African qualifiers will take place between the 21st and the 29th March, 2022. The ten contesting teams will be seeded and drawn into pairs (on a date yet to be determined) each playing home and away ties over two legs.
Keep checking back at Living2022 News to find out the results of the draw.
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