African Word Cup Qualification Round Up – June

The conclusion of June’s double-header means there is now just one round of games left the second round of Africa qualification – Several sides booked their places in the third and final round during these games, however a handful of groups look set to go down to the wire.

The Ivory Coast, Egypt and Algeria all ensured they can go into the final round of fixtures worry free – with all three wrapping up their groups in gameweek five. Ethiopia and Tunisia were for a period feeling the same – however both might now be forced into a tense final day if investigations into the fielding of ineligible players proves true.

For Tunisia they have particular reason to feel aggrieved by this, given that it is not them being investigated but equatorial Guinea – if they are found guilty it would see Cape Verde awarded three points and therefore still give them a chance of overhauling the Tunisians when they meet in September. As for Ethiopia they only have themselves to blame, having beaten nearest rivals South Africa it appeared they had impressively put the group to bed – yet if they are docked three points they could be left needing a win at Central African Republic.

The qualification of Egypt and Ivory Coast should not come as a shock given they have dominated their groups from the off, however Algeria would have been expecting Mali to take them to the wire in the battle for qualification. Whilst the Algerians have reached top form at the right time – picking up three straight wins, Mali have faltered failing to win games against both Benin and Rwanda. Draws against those nations means the Malians who are ranked 23rd in the world and have claimed third in the last two cup of nations, will again fail to make their world cup bow.

The ineligible player fiasco does not end there – for Libya could cruelly be denied their current top position in group I if Togo are found guilty of fielding an ineligible player against the Cameroon – a game the Togolese won. Should the Cameroonians be awarded those points it would rather fortuitously send them top of the table and give them the edge in what was already a crunch game between themselves and Libya in September. For a Cameroon side who have taken only one point from games against Togo and DR Congo this could represent a real lifeline – particularly given that Libya are proving a more than difficult nut to crack.

June represented a particularly important month for Ghana – coming into these round of games they sat a point behind group leaders Zambia. Away wins in both Sudan and Lesotho coupled with a favour from Sudan who held the Zambians in Ndola, meaning that Ghana now sit top of the group and whilst the Chipolopolo do have the chance to overhaul the sides in the final fixture it would take a brave man to bet on Ghana being overhauled in Accra.

Current ACON holders Nigeria face a similar task to Ghana as they enter the final round of fixtures – needing a point against Malawi to ensure their passage, however defeat would see their opponents progress. The Nigerians despite their fairly strong position will be more than a little frustrated not to already be planning for the play off given the group they were handed was hardly amongst the toughest – qualification could have been secured with a win in Namibia, however but for a late strike they nearly lost that game. This is not the first time the Super Eagles have had to rely on late goals and even if they progress they will know they must improve.

Burkina Faso who Nigeria beat in the ACON final had looked dead and buried at the halfway stage – with Congo just needing a win from their three remaining games. The Congolese though are still searching for that win, having picked up a point in Gabon and crucially losing at home to Burkina courtesy of a Aristide Bance strike. That result represented the Burkinabe’s third win on the bounce and with a home game against Gabon to come it is likely Congo will need to win in Niger to progress – a result which is way off inconceivable but given the stakes will prove a challenge to achieve.

Senegal look favourites to clinch qualification in the final group that is still up for grabs. Like both Nigeria and Ghana they now need just a point from their final home game, thanks largely to three goals in two games from Papisse Cisse which ensured Senegal took four points from their two June away dates. Uganda their opponents in that final fixture had hardly looked in the running for qualification prior to June, however two victories, including coming back from a goal down in the last ten minutes to beat Angola means they could yet book the most unlikely play off spot.