Early casualties and upsets as African race begins

  • Second round of African qualifiers for Qatar 2022 now under way

  • Hectic opening two matchdays throw up lots of talking points

  • FIFA.com reveals who made fast and slow starts

Following a lengthy pause, the African qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ has just resumed, with 40 nations battling it out in ten second-round groups. Over the last week, a total of 83 goals have been scored, several records have fallen, a few upsets have been recorded, and a clutch of sides have already broken clear as group leaders. Among them are Tunisia, Nigeria, Senegal and surprise packages Libya, the only teams who managed to win both their opening matches. Two sides have played only one to date: Guinea and Morocco, whose meeting in Conakry was postponed. FIFA.com looks at the headline stories from the opening weekend of the second round of qualifying in Africa.

In brief

The highlights

1) Desert Foxes march on Algeria extended their impressive unbeaten run to 29 matches courtesy of an 8-0 defeat of Djibouti and a 1-1 draw with Burkina Faso. The Desert Foxes’ tally of nine goals were more than anyone else managed in Africa over the international weekend. In scoring four of them against Djibouti, front man Islam Slimani pulled level with Abdelhafid Tasfaout as Algeria’s leading all-time marksman. Slimani’s ex-Leicester City team-mate Riyad Mahrez was also on the scoresheet against Djibouti, the seventh game in a row that the wide man had scored for his country. A new Algeria record, Mahrez’s scoring run came to an end against Burkina Faso.

2) No margin for error With only the group winners advancing to the third and final round of qualifying, a good start to the campaign is essential, which is just what Nigeria, Tunisia, Senegal and outsiders Libya achieved in winning both their opening matches. In stark contrast, Djibouti, Mauritania, Madagascar, Sudan and previous World Cup finalists Angola and Togo failed to pick up a single point, leaving their qualification hopes hanging by a thread.

3) Trio make waves While it is no surprise to see the likes of Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal and South Africa moving to the top of their groups, few expected to see Libya, Tanzania and Guinea-Bissau do likewise, though the west Africans have played a game more than their Group I rivals Morocco and Guinea. The three dark horses pulled off some notable results against teams respectively ranked 30 places above them in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. The Mediterranean Knights beat Gabon 2-1, the Taifa Stars saw off Madagascar 3-2, and Guinea-Bissau held Guinea to a 1-1 draw.

4) Pharaohs part company with El-Badry, hire Queiroz An unbeaten record of five wins and four draws in his nine games in charge could not save Egypt coach Hossam El-Badry from the sack on Monday, after his side had followed up an unimpressive 1-0 defeat of Angola with a scrappy 1-1 draw with Gabon. The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) wasted little time in making their decision, announcing it even before Libya had replaced the Pharaohs at the top of Group F. El-Badry had been in the post since September 2019, when he replaced Javier Aguirre in the wake of Egypt’s round-of-16 exit on home soil at the last Africa Cup of Nations. The EFA have since appointed the vastly experienced Carlos Queiroz as his successor.

5) Elephants tame the Lions The big game of the opening two matchdays was Côte d’Ivoire’s home meeting with Cameroon in Group D. It went the way of the Elephants, with Ajax Amsterdam striker Sebastien Haller giving them a two-goal lead before Moumi Ngamaleu pulled one back from the penalty spot for the Indomitable Lions. Nevertheless, only one point separates the two sides at the top of the section, with Côte d’Ivoire having drawn away to Mozambique in their first match, while Cameroon beat Malawi at home.

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