FEATURE: CAF World Cup Qualifying Roundup
The second match-day in the final stage of the CAF 2018 World Cup qualifiers has come to a conclusion after some of the most highly anticipated clashes. KingFut rounds-up the action from across the continent.
Many group favourites have already gone head to head and with a ten months break ahead of us, this is a good point to look back and reflect on how the WCQ groups stand thus far.
We begin in Omar Hamadi stadium in Algeria where Tunisia needed a 48th min penalty to beat a Libyan side that were reduced to ten men in the process. Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri converted from the spot to grab all three points for the away side. The Carthage Eagles now have six out of six after beating Guinea 2-0 in the first round.
However, Tunisia remains second on goal difference behind the impressive DR Congo. The Leopards showed their ferocious attacking power in the first round with a 4-0 win over Libya. In the second round they came from behind to win 2-1 in Guinea with two fantastic strikes. England-based Neeskens Kebano (Fulham) and Yannick Bolasie (Everton) struck within two minutes of each other to overturn Seydouba Soumah’s first half penalty.
Group A is already only a two horse race with the double header between Tunisia and DR Congo in August becoming the decisive matter. Tunisia’s hundred percent record may come as no surprise to many, but DR Congo’s should not be either. It won’t be a surprise to see the Leopards make their second World Cup appearance in Russia.
All eyes were on the clash between Group B heavy-weights Nigeria and Algeria. With a small margin for error in this group, the Algerians desperately needed a positive result after their 1-1 home draw with Cameroon. Instead the rejuvenated Victor Moses and Super Eagles were too much for the Desert Foxes who were guilty of some poor defending. Moses was allowed to advance through the centre, even after seemingly losing control of the ball, to slot home past the helpless keeper. Algeria’s full back Aïssa Mandi was then caught sleeping allowing John Obi Mikel to stay onside and the Chelsea midfielder made no mistake. Bentaleb pulled one back with a terrific long range effort setting up a frenetic end to the match. In the end, Moses made sure of the three points after a stoppage time counter attack.
The Algerians may be paying the price of managerial instability as Georges Leekens had only two weeks to prepare for the game in Nigeria, following Milovan Rajevac’s resignation last month. However, there is no doubt that the Super Eagles have greatly improved from the side that failed to qualify for the 2017 AFCON.
With Cameroon settling for 1-1 home draw against Zambia, Nigeria stretched their lead to four points. Ironically the group of death front-runners appear to be the most comfortable among the group leaders. The Super Eagles however will be mindful that it is far from over with two clashes against second placed Cameroon and a trip to Algeria still on the agenda. The Indomitable Lions still have their fate in their hands, although that requires the daunting task of beating the Nigerians twice in August.
Group C favourites Morocco and Ivory Coast met in Marrakesh. A lot of hope has been put on the Atlas Lions to make their first World Cup appearance since 1998 after hiring Hervé Renard. The Frenchman has been one of the most successful managers in Africa recently, winning the continental title with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015. The North African side’s start has not been ideal however, and after a scoreless result in Gabon, they settled for another goalless draw against rivals Ivory Coast.
Aubameyang and company also remain without a goal after a second consecutive draw in Mali.
Although Morocco and Gabon remain only two points behind leaders Ivory Coast, after the latter salvaged a draw from arguably their most difficult fixture, the Elephants are favourites to claim the ticket to Russia.
South Africa stunned Senegal 2-1 in Group D’s high profile encounter. Although the Bafana Bafana were at home, the Senegalese, boasting one of Africa’s most polished squads, would have expected a better performance from themselves. However, they can take some consolation in the fact that a refereeing blunder led to the penalty that ultimately cost them the game.
Burkina Faso eased past bottom side Cape Verde with two first half goals to take top spot in a closely contested group.
Despite currently sitting in third place, Senegal’s star-studded squad still make them favourites to progress from this group.
In Alexandria, Egypt overcame Ghana 2-0 to maintain their best start to a final stage of World Cup Qualifiers in a long time. More importantly they have now built a five point cushion over the Black Stars. Despite the win, manager Héctor Cúper has been under severe criticism for his defensive approach. Nevertheless, after a long-waited return to the AFCON and an ideal World Cup qualifying campaign, so far, the Pharaohs are on the right track.
Uganda have also maintained their remarkable start to the qualifiers. After earning a surprising point in Ghana, a fine individual goal from teenager Farouk Miya guaranteed all three points against Congo.
It is no secret that the Cranes are enjoying one of their best football eras after securing an AFCON appearance for the first time in 39 years. However, should the Pharaohs avoid defeat in Kampala, Cuper’s men may very well end another, much longer, wait for a World Cup appearance.
The continent will now turn its eyes to the January 2017 AFCON. The next World Cup qualifying round is not until August 2017. A lot can change in ten months, who do you think will represent Africa in Russia?
/ 15 hours ago
Zamalek president Mortada Mansour has accused former president Mamdouh Abbas and Smouha president Farag...
/ 16 hours ago
Former Zamalek manager Augusto Inácio has opened up on Mortada Mansour, saying that...
/ 16 hours ago
Mohamed Hamdy Zaki scored as Smouha defeated Zamalek 3-0 in the sixth fixture...
/ 17 hours ago
KingFut rounds up the Pharaohs Abroad action this week to keep you up to...