6 African teams chasing 3 Word Cup spots
By DB Peters
Special to USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine
Johannesburg – Ahead of the final round of African World Cup qualifying matches, there are still three places at next year’s finals in South Africa up for grabs.
In Group A, Cameroon are favoured to qualify, with Gabon waiting in the wings for any slip-up, while Nigeria need to hope that Tunisia fail to beat Mozambique in Group B.
Cairo will see a final in Group C between Egypt and Algeria with a one-goal victory or worse for the Egyptians giving Algeria the place, while a three-goal victory would see the Pharaohs advance. A two-goal victory for the hosts would result in a play-off between the two countries in Sudan on Wednesday.
The only two African countries that have already made sure of joining the hosts South Africa as the continent’s representatives are Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
In Group D, Ghana face Mali while Sudan are at home to Benin, but with everything clear in the group the matches are of statistical value only.
The World Cup qualifying campaign doubled up as African Nations Cup qualifiers and Ghana, Mali and Benin have made sure of finishing in the top three positions, thereby qualifying for the Nations Cup finals in Angola in January.
In Group E, the Ivory Coast are assured of first place and Burkina Faso of second, but the final qualifying place for Angola is still up for grabs with third-place Malawi traveling to Ouagadougou for their clash against the Burkinabe and Guinea going to Abidjan.
But it is in Groups A, B and C that the most interest lies.
Not long ago Cameroon looked all but out of the running as they were five points behind Gabon. But since German coach Otto Pfister quit things have turned around and under former French defender Paul Le Guen the Indomitable Lions have won three out of three.
They lead Gabon by one point, but face a difficult away match in Morocco on Saturday.
The Atlas Lions need to win to stand any chance of qualifying for Angola, so Le Guen knows he is in for a tough game.
Gabon, who in Alain Giresse also have a French coach, are also facing an uphill battle as Togo will not want to rely on Cameroon not losing in Morocco for their ticket to Angola.
In Group B, Kenya go into their game against Nigeria without German coach Antoine Hey, who has gone AWOL after complaining of interference in player selection by federation officials.
Earlier this week the vice chair of the Kenyan federation, Titus Kasuve, said that Emmanuel Ake and striker Dennis Oliech had been recalled.
‘The coach has had his way in the last five matches and we have seen the results. The fans have been calling for the changes. It is time to bring in everybody in the last ditch effort to qualify for Angola,’ Kasuve said.
A win for Tunisia in Mozambique would see the north Africans qualify at the Super Eagles’ expense. Nigeria can only qualify if they beat Kenya and Tunisia slip up against Mozambique.
Football’s controlling body FIFA on Wednesday held a draw in Zurich to decide – ahead of time – where an eventual play-off for Group C would be played.
Algeria, who are in the driving seat with a three point and two- goal advantage, suggested Tunisia, while Egypt said they wanted to play in Sudan. The Egyptians won and if they now manage to pull off a two-goal victory against Algeria, they would face the same opponents in Khartoum on Wednesday.
Algerian captain Yazid Mansouri said that they were all looking forward to the game in Cairo. ‘It’s got the makings of a great game, the kind of match that every footballer dreams of taking part in one day.
‘We need to treat this game as an opportunity. We’ve got a real advantage. It’s up to them to make the running, not us. That said, we won’t go to Cairo to defend. We’ll do everything we can to take our chances. I know we can score over there.’
Come Monday, at least two more African teams at the World Cup finals will be known. Algeria and Egypt are both hoping that it will be three.