How Egypt can avoid African heavyweights in final round of World Cup Qualifying
Brandon Riff of WeGlobalFootball.com – rankings, predictions and insights on all things international football – peeks into the final round of African World Cup qualifying with KingFut, while examining Egypt’s hopes of creeping into the seeded pot.
With July passing very quickly, soon it will be time for August friendlies and the conclusion of World Cup Qualifying in September and October. Once the Group Stage in CAF concludes in September, there will be 5 home-and-away matches played to determine the 5 teams which progress to Brazil 2014. Despite only 1 matchday remaining, only 4 of the 10 final teams are known as of today.
As is common in Africa, results of matches played are deemed invalid due to use of ineligible players, and the whole landscape changes. Ethiopia had clinched a spot in the final round, but FIFA sanctions have left their qualifying campaign still uncertain and revived the hopes of both South Africa and Botswana. Libya had led Group I, but Cameroon recently picked up an unexpected win and now tops the group, eliminating Congo DR in the process. A pending Equatorial Guinea sanction could bring Cape Verde Islands back to life and leave Tunisia’s spot uncertain.
If this is difficult to follow, believe me you’re not alone. An additional wrench thrown into the CAF world is the qualifiers for the 2014 African Nations Championship which is a tournament for local-based players only. Conventional wisdom would tell you these are not senior matches which should be counted towards the FIFA ranking. The last installment in 2011 was not included in the rankings calculation. For some reason this go-around, FIFA has decided, and confirmed, that they will use these qualifying games towards the rankings.
This could have a significant impact on the Final Pots. Teams like Ivory Coast are BANNED from using their international stars due to tournament rules. Why should this count as a legit match? Algeria withdrew from the competition citing “poor squad quality”. Don’t let that fool you. They didn’t want to risk missing out on Pot 1 in a meaningless match. Coincidentally, Cameroon was recently “suspended” and unable to partake in the CHAN qualifiers. This is another suspicious decision.
But it is what it is, and teams are forced to abide by FIFA’s sometimes irrational logic. The 4 teams to have officially clinched a spot in the final round of World Cup Qualifying are:
– Ivory Coast
Other likely qualifiers based on final matchups and standings are:
When the final 10 teams are determined, the top 5 teams according to the September FIFA Rankings will be placed into Pot 1, while the bottom 5 teams will be placed into Pot 2. A Pot 1 team will be drawn against a Pot 2 team to play for a spot in Brazil.
Under this highly likely scenario, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Algeria would be the top 4 teams in Pot 1. This would leave one spot remaining in Pot 1. Let’s take a look at the groups and who is left:
Knowing that they had clinched a spot in the finals, Ethiopia will surely play their hearts out to get a win at Central African Republic. South Africa will most likely defeat Botswana, so the ball is in Ethiopia’s court. If Ethiopia can pull out a victory, which they should, they will be headed to Pot 2. For any team hoping to get into Pot 1, you should be pulling for Ethiopia.
It is very, very difficult to imagine Congo not defeating Niger AND Burkina Faso defeating Gabon. In all likelihood, it will be Congo progressing to the final round, which again is good for any team hoping to get into Pot 1. Burkina Faso has a strong FIFA ranking, but it could be in vain.
Who knows what to make of Cameroon here? Is FIFA trying to pull some strings? They pick up 3 points but at the same time are suspended and can’t play in the somehow now counted CHAN qualifiers. This may be the most confusing scenario of all. Regardless of who advances to the final round, a draw in the Cameroon-Libya match is the best thing to hope for, as we’ll show below. Cameroon picked up a ton of points by having Togo disqualified.
The good news for teams hoping to reach Pot 1 is that it doesn’t matter who wins Group J. Either Senegal or Uganda is headed for Pot 2, and that is a certainty.
The actual September FIFA Ranking will not matter. The only thing that matters for getting into Pot 1 is having that ranking higher than the other teams still alive. The most likely scenario involves Ethiopia, Congo and the Group J winner in Pot 2. This leaves only the Group I winner, Tunisia, and Egypt. Remarkably, with the inclusion of the CHAN qualifiers, Tunisia has gone from having a clear edge to being right in the mix of teams that could end up in Pot 2.
When the August rankings are released, the relevant CAF nations should look something like this:
Ivory Coast: 19
Burkina Faso: 46
South Africa: 68
As you can see, the top 4 are virtually set in stone while Ethiopia, Congo, and the Group J winner are headed for pot 2 should they advance. For all interested parties, Ethiopia and Congo advancing drastically improves the odds of reaching Pot 1 as Burkina Faso and South Africa would be eliminated.
So who do we focus on? Tunisia, Cameroon, Egypt, and Libya should be battling it out for Pot 1. For Egypt, the match against Guinea may be the most important match of the qualifying campaign to date, despite it having no bearing on whether or not they progress. All 4 teams currently have the final World Cup Qualifier as their remaining test. Unfortunately for the other nations, Cape Verde Islands recently climbed the world rankings, so Tunisia has the most points to gain from their qualifier.
Here is a chart which shows approximately how many points each team will have based on different results in their final qualifying match:
The Cameroon-Togo match reversal was absolutely massive, but there is still work to be done. As you can see, Egypt is in some trouble here.
A couple things to note regarding our assumptions: We assumed a “worst-case” scenario, that Tunisia defeats Morocco in their July match. We also assumed that Cameroon does not face Gabon in CHAN 2014 qualifiers and therefore does not have their ranking suffer.
Update (7/15/2013): Tunisia drew 0-0 with Morocco in their CHAN qualifier. As a result, Tunisia will be approximately 54th in August and will have 13 fewer total points when the September numbers are finalized. With a win they would have 642 points; with a draw they would have 601 points; and with a loss they would have 580 points.
This is outstanding news for Egypt. If Egypt defeats Guinea, they will be ahead of Tunisia should they draw Cape Verde without playing any additional friendlies. Monitoring the Cameroon situation is key, as if they are unable to play their qualifier in September, Libya will be awarded a win and pass Egypt.
This chart shows us that Egypt MUST defeat Guinea to get into Pot 1. There is no other way around it. Also, if Tunisia or Cameroon wins their final qualifier, Egypt will be unable to get into Pot 1. At this point, Egypt should be looking to schedule one, or multiple, August friendlies to try and get their point total above 620. This would increase their odds of reaching Pot 1. Under that scenario, as long as Tunisia and Cameroon both do not win their final match, Egypt would reach Pot 1. It is a longshot, but it is doable.
We released an article at We Global Football at the beginning of June citing the importance of scheduling international friendlies with the specific purpose of boosting FIFA Rankings. With only 2 months remaining until the September FIFA Rankings are released, the best way that Egypt can get into Pot 1 is by scheduling, and winning, international friendlies. The importance of getting into Pot 1 cannot be understated as it would guarantee that your opponent in the Final Round would not be Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana or Algeria.
Can Egypt Do It?
Without getting into too many details, Egypt must raise their current year point average by 16 points to reach a total of 621. This is also doable by scheduling just one match, but Egypt would need to beat a top 30 team in the world, and every one of those teams have friendlies already scheduled for August. In all likelihood, this will have to be done over the course of two matches. To reach the 621 mark, Egypt would need to schedule, and win, 2 friendlies by the end of August.
Again, this is a difficult task, but it can be done. Perhaps Bob Bradley can exhaust some of his ties with former CONCACAF foes. Pairing Honduras with Cape Verde Islands would be enough to get there. Something like Costa Rica and Zambia would also do the trick. If Bob was really daring, he could give Serbia a call, which is still unscheduled for August 14th. Defeating Serbia and then defeating a smaller CAF nation like Equatorial Guinea would also be enough.
While obviously nothing is guaranteed, scheduling this way and succeeding would enable Egypt to get into Pot 1 with a Tunisia draw and a Libya win. Given Cameroon’s uncertain state, Libya may very well emerge with a win. It is not unfathomable to think that Tunisia draws Cape Verde.
While the odds are certainly stacked against Egypt, they can still reach Pot 1. That possibility can certainly be enhanced by scheduling a couple friendlies. Worst case scenario, they’re in Pot 2 with a chance to go to the World Cup. Although the FIFA decision enabled Cameroon to be brought back to life, it is a hill that is not insurmountable. There are many exciting months ahead for the Egypt football team, and the possibility of reaching Brazil is certainly an exciting one.
If you would like more specific details about what Egypt can do to boost their FIFA ranking, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] Thanks very much for reading!
What are your thoughts on the Pharaohs’ chances to be seeded in Pot 1? Let us know in the comments section below.
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