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Africa’s second round set as World Cup qualifying heats up



Save for a lone formality between Swaziland and Djibouti, the second-round 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying playoff matchups in Africa have been determined, and some of them will water your mouth.

Tuesday ushered in the conclusion of most first-round playoff ties on the continent, offering some surprises.

Among them was Chad’s passage into the second round on away goals over Sierra Leone. Léger Djimrangar scored the Chadians’ only two goals as their defense would do the rest of the work, blanking the Leone Stars in N’Djamena before staving off their late surge in Port Harcourt.

It marks the first time Chad has ever advanced past the first round of World Cup qualifying.

Awaiting them will be Egypt, who thrashed Chad 5-1 a month ago in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier. The Pharaohs haven’t been to a World Cup since before many of their current players were even born (1990).

One match from the round has yet to be played, as Swaziland will take on Djibouti on October 17. Swaziland won the first leg 6-0, essentially rendering the return leg a forgone conclusion.

The aggregate winners of the second round will advance to the group stage, where only the five winners will earn a trip to the finals in Russia.

Morocco vs. Equatorial Guinea

Perhaps the highlight of the second-round slate, the talent-laden Atlas Lions will look to return to the summit of African football when they face upstart Equatorial Guinea.

On paper, many would fancy Morocco, but FIFA ranks the North Africans 15 spots lower than the tiny West African nation that went all the way to the semifinals of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

Because of their respective places in FIFA’s monthly rankings, Equatorial Guinea will get to host the second leg, perhaps giving it a slight edge if Morocco fails to capitalize at home in the first leg.

Sudan vs. Zambia

Two teams many would say are deserving participants of the group stage of qualifying, only one will actually survive to be around for it.

While Zambia hasn’t quite been the same since its AFCON title-winning run in 2012, the Chipolopolo are capable of beating anyone on the continent on any given day.

Always formidable at home, Sudan will likely have to take a lead into the second leg in Ndola to stand any chance of getting past the Zambians.

Angola vs. South Africa

It isn’t often in Africa that you get a battle of teams that have combined to play in four of the last five World Cups before the group stage of qualifiers, but that’s what we have in this sneakily entertaining tussle.

Neither team has been at its best of late, but with South Africa seemingly reemerging, Angola will have to find its stride when it hosts the first leg on November 13.

Mauritania vs. Tunisia

While Tunisia will be firm favorites to get past Mauritania, the oft-forgotten Northwest African nation is on the rise, and might be in its best form ever.

Les Mourabitones cruised past South Sudan in the first round and recorded a shock 3-1 upset over South Africa in an AFCON qualifier last month.

Other notes

The entire second-round docket is chalk full of entertainment value, as World Cup qualifying playoffs typically are.

There will be story lines aplenty, too many to mention in a single preview.

  • According to local authorities, Egypt’s home leg against Chad should mark the return of supporters to stadiums in Egypt. The crowd ban is only being lifted for national team matches, however.
  • If Cape Verde takes care of business both home and away against Kenya, it should leapfrog Senegal into Africa’s top five and into position to be a seeded team for the group stage of qualifying, according to the Football Rankings Info blog.
  • Comoros advanced to the second round despite having still never won a World Cup qualifier in its history. They qualified over Lesotho on away goals.

Full second-round matchups

Both legs will played between Nov. 9-17. First leg hosts are listed first.

Niger vs. Cameroon
Mauritania vs. Tunisia
Namibia vs. Guinea
Ethiopia vs. Congo
Chad vs. Egypt
Comoros vs. Ghana
*Swaziland vs. Nigeria
Botswana vs. Mali
Burundi vs. DR Congo
Liberia vs. Ivory Coast
Madagascar vs. Senegal
Kenya vs. Cape Verde
Tanzania vs. Algeria
Sudan vs. Zambia
Libya vs. Rwanda
Morocco vs. Equatorial Guinea
Mozambique vs. Gabon
Benin vs. Burkina Faso
Togo vs. Uganda
Angola vs. South Africa

*Pending second leg between Swaziland and Djibouti on Oct. 17. Swaziland beat Djibouti 6-0 in the first leg.

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