Picture : the 10 African countries to play for World Cup Qualification !

CAF Qatar 2022 First leg playoffs this Friday.

A lot is being said and looked up to as 10 survivors of the initially crowded field play the first leg of their respective  playoff fixtures of the CAF Qatar 2022 World Cup Finals. The overall winners of the two-legged confrontations  separated by four days will represent the continent in Qatar. Sparring in strength, the five fixtures are simply the best one could have hoped for as facts and figures, history and statistics speak volumes  in and out of favour.

Cameroon welcome Algeria at the 50 thousand seater Japoma temple of football truths. The visitors have never defeated their hosts in a competitive game. They arrived in Cameroon for the TotalEnergies AFCON in January with the best report sheet, undefeated in two dozen games but buckled, leaving the tournament in the first round. In the pre-match press conference, coach Belmadi has declared that all that he decried at the Japoma stadium in January has been fixed, and that if he fails to qualify for the World Cup, he would ‘take my responsibilities’. Cameroon Federation president, Samuel Eto’o has urged the players to ‘make a dream that not even the great George Weah could live come true’.

Ghana host Nigeria for their first clash in a decade and which will be their first in a World Cup qualifier since 2001. By sacking coach Milovan Rajevac and bringing in Otto Addo after their group stage elimination in the Cameroon AFCON, Ghanaian football officials indirectly hinted at the seriousness with which to take the World Cup playoffs. The absence of suspended captain, André Ayew is matched in collateral damage by the absence in the Nigerian camp of the likes of suspended Alex Iwobi and  injured Wilfred Ndidi. The historic rivalry between the two will certainly be visible as Ghana look to go back to Qatar after a botched campaign in Russia 2018, and Nigeria eyeing a fourth consecutive World cup appearance and the sixth in all.

Liverpool FC’s enigmatic African twin, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané cross swords for the second time in 7 weeks when Egypt welcome Senegal at the Cairo International Stadium. It will be the second meeting in a trilogy that began last February 6 at the Olembe Stadium when Mané’s ultimate penalty pioneered Senegal AFCON trophy win to the dismay of a tearful Mosalah. In their 7 previous matches, Senegal won 3 for 2 draws, and so Egypt would seek to neutralize that edge and hope the newly built football jewel in Dakar would welcome them with an olive branch four days later. For one thing, the recurrence of the 33rd AFCON final fixture would require that cardiac patients give themselves enough security berth from the scene of action.

Ever since the Democratic Republic of Congo made a disgraceful appearance at the 1974 World Cup where keeper Kazadi conceded 14 goals in three matches for none scored, the then Zaire have been chasing after the elusive appearance visa on the world stage. Their first meeting with Morocco at Kinshasa’s Stade des Martyrs this Friday is being taken as the first step to achieving what is being considered their challenge of the century. Morocco’s quarterfinal elimination in the recent AFCON by eventual finalists, Egypt speaks well of them as a contrast to the non-participation of their opponents. But recent history puts the DR Congo in the driver’s seat as against the well-seated passengers, Morocco. However, the recent progress made by a new generation of Moroccan players tilts the balance in their favour. Therefore, one must hold the breath ahead of the double challenge.

Stade du 26 mars will host Mali vs Tunisia. Everton’s Abdoulaye Doucoure who played for France at every level between U17 and U21 is set to sport the Malian colors for the first time in Friday’s game. Along with fellow countryman, former Liverpool midfielder, Mohamed Sissoko they hope to provide the mechanical contrivance necessary to improve on their last AFCON success when Mali lost in the 8th final to Equatorial Guinea in a shootout lottery. Against Tunisia who participated in the 2018 World Cup, and shocked book makers when they pecked the highly performing Super Eagles to submission to reach the quarterfinals during the last AFCON, Mali would certainly need more than just determination to make it. Question: which eagle between that of Mali and the Carthaginian counterpart of Tunisia has a stronger plumage?

As attention gets focused on the five games, the Senegalese soothsayer who predicted the glorious run of their national team all the way during the TotalEnergies AFCON Cameroon 2021, KAHONE has predicted the following scores: RD Congo 1 2 Morocco; Egypt 0 1 Senegal; Mali 2 0 Tunisia; Ghana 3 2 Nigeria; Cameroon 1 0 Algeria.