CAF World Cup qualifying: What to watch as African teams try to reach Qatar 2022


It’s time for the serious AFCON business to begin.

It’s hard to fathom, but this time next year, we will be gearing up for FIFA World Cup 2022. Plans and preparations have begun, and in Africa, one of the hardest regions to earn a spot from things are well on their way.

The African continent boasts some of the best players in the world, Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Riyad Mahrez, Achraf Hakimi, Thomas Partey, Victor Osimhen, and they’re all playing their parts. You get the point, there’s talent in abundance on the continent

CAF qualifying, the story so far

Senegal and Morocco have already won their groups, H and I respectively, and will head to the third and final round, but some of the rest of these groups are TIGHT. Algeria and Burkina Faso are tied in Group A with 10 points. Tunisia lead Group B with 10 points, Equatorial Guinea trail them with 7 points. Nigeria lead Group C with 9 points, Cape Verde right behind with 7 points. Group D sees giants Ivory Coast and Cameroon fighting for the last qualification spot. Ivory Coast has 10 points and Cameroon are right behind with 9. Over in Group E, Mali lead the way with 10 points while Uganda are not far behind with 8 points. In Group F, Egypt lead the way with 10 points, Libya have 6 and Gabon have a slim chance, with 4 points. Group G has South Africa with 10 points and Ghana with 9. The last group still up for grabs, Group J, is very chaotic. All 4 teams have a shot, Tanzania and Benin both have 7 points, DR Congo has 5 points and Madagascar has 3 points.

That is a lot of information to process but you get the point, right? When five teams qualify from a chaotic and often unserious footballing haven, there’s bound to be drama, and that’s before we even get to the final round of qualification where the group winners are pitted against each other.

CAF matches to watch

(All times U.S./eastern)

Thursday, November 11
Tanzania vs DR Congo, 8 a.m. (ESPN+)
South Africa vs Zimbabwe, 8 a.m. (ESPN+)

Saturday, November 13
Liberia vs Nigeria, 11 a.m.  (ESPN+)

Sunday, November 14
DR Congo vs Benin, 8 a.m. (ESPN+)
Mali vs Uganda, 11 a.m. (ESPN+)
Ghana vs South Africa, 2 p.m. (ESPN+)

Tuesday, November 16
Nigeria vs Cape Verde, 11 a.m. (ESPN+)
Cameroon vs Ivory Coast, 2 p.m. (ESPN+)

(Totally biased but fair) Teams and players to watch

The African continent is blessed with some amazing talent, it always has been but now the world’s best competitions are littered with these players. Arguably the best player in the world, Mo Salah plays for Egypt. Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane cause ruckus in the Premier League, while Osihmen is fulfilling his potential in Serie A and his anchor at the back is Kalidou Koulibaly. Algeria are the team to watch. The current African champions boast a well balanced team full of stars. Morocco and Tunisia have an exciting crop of talent, as do Senegal, who have never won an African Championship. 

Ghana and South Africa have been powerhouses throughout the years and are slowly finding themselves again. Mali are coming back to prominence as well as Cameroon. You also have teams who are making names for themselves, such as Tanzania, Benin, DR Congo and Zambia; who have talents such as Patson Daka, Enock Mwepu and Fashion Sakala.

Yes, I selfishly left Nigeria for last. Nigeria are going through a golden generation. There is a bunch of unreal talent that do not even sniff the team, players such as David Okereke, Henry Onyekuru, Terem Moffi and Umar Sadiq. The question remains, can Nigeria get out of its own way? Calling up players like Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa, leaves many puzzled. Can they find midfield options and balance, defensive stability and an exciting brand of football? They’re easily one of the best teams on the continent, on paper, but when it comes together? It often leaves much to be desired

What’s next?

For some of these countries, the party ends next week and they’ll have another four years to wait for another chance to qualify for the World Cup, for the others, the chaos is just about to begin. Once the Group winners are finalized, the 10 group winners will be drawn into five head-to-head, two-legged ties to earn one of the five places at the World Cup. The matches will be played in March 2022. Before then, teams can get revenge on each other during AFCON 2021; which takes place Jan. 9 -Feb. 6.

The continent of Africa is always due some chaos, some unseriousness, some banter, wild haircuts, but overall, a great time. The final two matches of Round 2 for World Cup qualifiers are just another installment of the greatness that is African football.





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