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In November, Africa will know the names of the ten teams that will compete in the last qualifying round for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar next March, with five places in the final phase at stake. From October 6 to 13, the third and fourth days of the second round could allow some of them to stand out in the standings. We are thinking in particular of Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia, which benefit from an a priori favorable calendar. For the others, it will probably be necessary to fight until the end.
- Algeria and Niger (8 and 12 October)
If it wants to approach the home stretch of the second qualifying round in November against Djibouti and Burkina Faso, in a position of strength, Algeria has every interest in negotiating its two meetings well against its neighbor Niger. The Fennecs, after beating Djibouti (8-0), had to settle for a draw against the Etalons Burkinabés (1-1) in September and are aiming for a full card against Niger.
A quasi-obligation, since Burkina Faso, which presents itself as its main competitor in group A, should logically win its two confrontations against the Djiboutians. Almost invincible in Blida, where they host Niger on October 8, the African champions will make a high-risk trip to Niamey, where it is notoriously difficult to win.
- Angola and Gabon (8 and 11 October)
Before facing Angola in Luanda and Franceville, Patrice Neveu, the French coach of Gabon, would no doubt be well advised to remind his players that a match only ends when the referee has decided. In September, the Gabonese paid a high price for their lack of attention in the final minutes. In Libya, while holding an honorable draw, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s teammates had conceded one of these so-called avoidable goals in added time, only to lose (1-2) on the thread.
Then, during the reception of Egypt on September 5, the Panthers, seductive and dominating, thought they would get their first three points, before being joined in the 90e minute, the fault of a new defensive prank. Instead of having four points, Gabon must settle for a single unit before the double confrontation with Angola. He will have to do flawlessly, so as not to be left behind by Libya (6 points) and Egypt (4 points).
- DRC and Madagascar (7 and 10 October)
While Tanzania and Benin (4 points) are racing at the top of Group J, the DRC (2 points) and Madagascar (0 points) will play big. The Leopards, if they want to keep a chance of qualifying for the second final phase of the World Cup, forty-eight years after a painful first in 1974, have no room for error. The recruitment at great expense of the Argentine coach Hector Cuper has not given, for the moment, the expected results, while the technician has a workforce of a higher quality than those of his three opponents.
Still traumatized by its elimination from CAN 2022, the DRC, which can count on its best players (Bakambu, Luyindama, Mbokani, Mbemba…) hopes to collect at least four points against the Malagasy, who are going through a period far removed from the splendor of the CAN 2019. The coach, Eric Rabesandratana, is on an ejection seat after the two defeats in September against Benin (0-1) and Tanzania (2-3) and his fate could be sealed in the event of further poor performance.
- Mozambique and Cameroon (8 and 11 October)
Just over three months from the CAN that it will organize from January 9 to February 6, 2022, Cameroon is up against the wall, before facing the tough Mozambicans. Beaten in Côte d’Ivoire (1-2) after dominating Malawi (2-0), the five-time African champion let the Ivorian Elephants take over Group D. The Indomitable Lions, whose performances have always been so struggling to convince its many and demanding supporters, will again be deprived of their goalkeeper André Onana (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands), still suspended for doping.
The Portuguese coach of Cameroon, Toni Conceiçao, far from being unanimous, is expected at the turn during these two matches against the Portuguese speakers. Which “will welcome” Cameroon to Morocco, their Maputo stadium not having been approved by CAF. An obvious advantage for the Lions than to face Mozambique on neutral ground, three days before receiving it.
- Guinea and Morocco (October 12)
This match at the top between the two main candidates for a qualification for the third round could not take place in Conakry on September 6, because of the coup d’etat perpetrated the day before in Guinea. CAF has decided to play this match in Agadir (Morocco), as Guinea cannot currently host international matches. A godsend for the Moroccans who will not have to move from home, since their two other matches against Guinea-Bissau will take place in Rabat and Casablanca on October 6 and 9.
And despite its good results, Morocco is not evolving in a particularly peaceful climate. Atlas Lions coach Vahid Halilhodzic has fallen out with two team executives – Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea) and Noussair Mazraoui (Ajax Amsterdam) – for disciplinary reasons. With the first, the point of no return even seems to have been reached, since the two men settle their accounts through the press.