Draw for second round of African qualifiers took place in Egypt
We have all you need to know about the groups and teams
40 sides in the running; five slots available for Qatar 2022
The 40 African nations still in the hunt for a spot at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ discovered their fate on Tuesday.
The draw for the second round of the African qualifying campaign was held in Cairo, Egypt, and it produced some mouth-watering duels involving longstanding rivalries, chances for revenge and heavyweight clashes. FIFA.com runs the rule over the freshly minted groups.
As winners of the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Algeria will be regarded as favourites in Group A. Given that they missed out on Russia 2018, Les Fennecs will be even more motivated to qualify this time around. The other three teams in the pool will be just as driven to perform well, not least because none of them have ever appeared on football’s greatest stage, although Burkina Faso did come close to qualifying for the 2014 edition. Back then, it was Algeria who eventually denied Les Etalons a berth in Brazil.
Tunisia will lock horns with Zambia, who have often shone in the Cup of Nations, which they won in 2012, but who have not enjoyed the same success in World Cup qualifiers. The Chipolopolo will be determined to reverse that trend, while Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania – who held the Tunisians to a draw last year – are also likely to play a pivotal role.
Nigeria will doubtless be installed as heavy favourites in this section, having advanced to the World Cup on six previous occasions, unlike their three future opponents, none of whom have ever successfully negotiated a qualifying campaign. However, as the Super Eagles’ slip-up during the 2017 Cup of Nations qualifiers proves, a surprise outcome is always a possibility.
Three-time World Cup participants Côte d’Ivoire were viewed as the team to avoid in Pot 2, and they find themselves pitted against the African side that has qualified for the World Cup most often (seven times), Cameroon. At least one continental powerhouse will therefore not make it to the third round, while the other two nations in the group should not be discounted either.
In stark contrast with Group D, this section features four teams who have never played at the World Cup proper. Out of the ambitious quartet, Mali appear best equipped to reach the third round, but Uganda are capable of springing a surprise, as they demonstrated by qualifying for the last two Cup of Nations tournaments.
In this high-calibre group, Egypt, propelled by the goals of Mohamed Salah, will not find the going easy against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon. But Angola, who have one World Cup appearance under their belts, certainly cannot be ruled out, especially considering the talented crop of youngsters – who impressed at the most recent FIFA U-17 World Cup – they have at their disposal. The unpredictable Libyans make up the quartet.
Ghana and South Africa, two nations with substantial World Cup pedigree, will face off in the standout duel in Group G. In addition, Bafana Bafana have a clash with neighbours Zimbabwe to look forward to. With Ethiopia, who are capable of competing with the best on their day, also in the mix, the pool promises to be a closely contested affair. “It’s a very even group,” noted Marcel Desailly, who assisted with the draw in Cairo. “Teams will have to get off to a strong start. Wins build momentum and generate confidence.”
The highest-placed CAF representatives in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Senegal, boasting an attack featuring newly crowned African Player of the Year Sadio Mane, appear to be the team to beat in this pool. However, Togo, who competed at the 2006 World Cup, Congo and Namibia will not be there to simply make up the numbers.
On paper, the outcome of Group I should come down to the matches between Morocco and Guinea, who both have players performing all over Europe. That said, Guinea-Bissau, likely to be galvanised by their rivalry with neighbours Guinea, and Sudan are more than capable of gatecrashing the party.
Arguably the most open section, Group J features four teams who all took part in the last Cup of Nations, two of whom – Benin and Madagascar – surprisingly reached the quarter-finals. Les Leopards, who enjoy a more elevated position in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking than the other three countries, were eliminated in the previous round by Madagascar at Egypt 2019, which suggests that some significant drama could lie ahead.
Group A: Niger have two derbies of sorts on the agenda, due to the fact they share borders with both Burkina Faso and Algeria.
Group B: One of Equatorial Guinea’s finest results came against Tunisia: a 2-1 win in the quarter-finals of the 2015 Cup of Nations.
Group C: In September 2018, at the age of 51, Liberian football legend George Weah played in a specially arranged friendly match versus Nigeria.
Group F: The last time that Angola found themselves in the same group as Gabon in a World Cup qualifying campaign (in 2006), they advanced to the finals.