Second round of Africa’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers set to start
To the delight of football fans across the globe, September sees the return of the qualifying competitions for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
In Africa, this means the start of the second round of the preliminaries, which promises to be intense.
Some 40 teams will be battling it out in ten groups, with only the section winners advancing to the third and final round, which will decide which five teams go on to the world finals.
Matchday 1: An all-Arabian duel and a shot at revenge
The second round kicks off with a host of exciting matches, including the meeting between Senegal and Togo, a chance for the Lions of Teranga to avenge a famous, decisive defeat to the Sparrowhawks in the qualifiers for Germany 2006. Sadly for Togo, they will be without Hoffenheim winger Ihlas Bebou for their first two games.
Matchday 1 also features an exciting all-Arabian match-up between Morocco and Sudan. The Moroccans will be without Hakim Ziyech, who has been left out of the squad by coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
As for the Sudanese, they are on a high thanks in no small part to their French coach, Hubert Velud. As well as steering his team past South Africa and into the CAF Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in a long time, Velud has also taken them to this year’s FIFA Arab Cup.
Matchday 2: Algeria and Burkina Faso go again
Algeria entertain Djibouti in their opening match before travelling to Marrakech to take on Burkina Faso. The Stallions will be without the injured duo of Edmond Tapsoba and Bertrand Traore, while Charles Kabore and Alain Traore are both lacking match fitness. The match gives Burkina Faso a perfect opportunity to gain revenge for their defeat to the Desert Foxes in the qualifiers for Brazil 2014.
Also on the bill is a mouth-watering meeting between Gabon and Egypt. Pharaohs coach Hossam Al Badry has announced that his two Premier League stars, Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Elneny, will miss the opening match against Angola but should be back to face the Gabonese.
All eyes will be on Abidjan on 6 September, when Côte d’Ivoire host Cameroon, a game that will go a long way to deciding who goes through from Group D. Les Elephants begin their campaign in Mozambique, while the Indomitable Lions host Malawi.
The two heavyweights clashed memorably in the qualifiers for Germany 2006. Cameroon won in Côte d’Ivoire on that occasion only to then miss an injury-time penalty in a 1-1 draw with Egypt, a result that allowed the Elephants to pip them to a place in the world finals.