Mali among giants in Africa's final round
The ten-team line-up for the final round of African qualifying has been set
Mali are the only nation in it to have never reached the FIFA World Cup
Côte d'Ivoire will miss out on a second successive global finals
The second round of African qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ came to an exciting end on Tuesday, and the identity of the ten teams who will take part in the third and final round in March 2022 is now known. FIFA.com runs the rule over the key moments from the second round, which ran from 1 September to 16 November, and featured ten groups of four teams, who battled each other over six matchdays with the aim of keeping their World Cup dreams alive. Qualified for the final round Algeria Tunisia Nigeria Cameroon Mali Egypt Ghana Senegal Morocco Congo DR The usual suspects Out of the ten sides who booked a spot in the next round, nine have previously participated in a World Cup. In fact, only Mali, who recorded some impressive results in the second round, have yet to perform on football’s greatest stage. With five wins and a draw – and not a single goal conceded – under their belts, the unbeaten Eagles will likely fear no-one in the third round. Lions devour Elephants The so-called group of death, in which two giants of African football, Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon, locked horns, certainly delivered its fair share of suspense. Having defeated the Indomitable Lions at home on Matchday 2, Les Éléphants led Group D until the final round of fixtures, when they eventually fell to a 1-0 loss in Douala. Karl Toko-Ekambi was the hero of the hour for Cameroon, notching what would prove to the winning goal in the first half, thereby sending his nation through to the next round and eliminating the Ivoirians, who will now miss out on their second successive World Cup. Super Slimani Algeria’s Islam Slimani enjoyed a memorable second round, scoring seven times to top the scoring charts. As if that were not enough, the Lyon forward became his country’s all-time leading goalscorer on 8 October, when he found the net for the 37th time against Niger – a goal that took him one ahead of former skipper Abdelhafid Tasfaout. With 16 World Cup qualifying goals to his name, he now lies joint fourth on the all-time African standings, level with Emmanuel Adebayor (16) and just behind Moumouni Dagano, Samuel Eto’o (both 17) and Didier Drogba (18).
Ayew leads by example The final match in Group G pitted Ghana against South Africa, who enjoyed a three-point lead over the Black Stars at the top. And it was the Ghanaians who emerged victorious (1-0) in Cape Coast, courtesy of a first-half Andre Ayew penalty. With that goal, the 31-year-old captain, who made his 100th international appearance on the night, propelled his team to the same number of points and goal difference as the Bafana Bafana, and having scored one goal more, Milovan Rajevac’s men marched on to the final round.
Marvellous Moroccans With six wins out of six matches, Morocco were the only team in the second round to earn maximum points. In addition, the Atlas Lions conceded just one goal while scoring 20 – a haul that will please coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who, since taking up the reins in 2019, has only experienced defeat on one occasion.
Impregnable Eagles’ nest Tunisia concluded their campaign as they began – with a victory at home. Although they drew 0-0 in Mauritania and suffered a 1-0 reverse in Equatorial Guinea, the Eagles of Carthage maintained their remarkable home record. Incredibly, they have not lost in front of their own fans in a World Cup qualifier since June 2008, when Burkina Faso picked up a 2-1 win in Tunis.
What they said “The World Cup in 2022 might end up being the greatest in history. I live in Qatar, and I’ve seen their ability to host major events, their level of excellence and their organisational skills. It’s kind of like a second country for us – we’ve got a lot of players there.” Djamel Belmadi, Algeria coach