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Predicting Africa’s five World Cup qualifiers after the Nations Cup

6:49 PM GMT+4 11/02/2022
Samuel Chukwueze Kelechi Iheanacho Nigeria Afcon 2022
In light of the Africa Cup of Nations, and the playoff draw, Ed Dove predicts Africa’s five favourites for Qatar

  • Jordan and Andre Ayew of Ghana

    World Cup playoffs

    2022 was always going to be a blockbuster year for African football, with the continent’s top sides colliding at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon before proceeding to the March World Cup qualifiers.

    Five teams—still a paltry number—will get to represent the continent in Qatar later this year, but who will be Africa’s quintet, and what did we learn about those sides during the Nations Cup?

    In this feature, Ed Dove predicts his five qualifiers from the March playoffs…look away now, Black Stars fans!

  • Senegal coach Aliou Cissé celebrates.

    Senegal

    Perhaps the most compelling of all of the five qualifiers, newly crowned African champions Senegal will have to face their final opponents Egypt across two fixtures in a rematch of Sunday’s showpiece fixture.

    The Teranga Lions certainly have the edge, with a stronger team across the board, and the mental boost of coming into the game on the back of their Afcon final victory.

    It would be a shame not to have Africa’s champions representing the continent at the World Cup, although the latest Sadio Mane vs Mohamed Salah battle is likely to split the neutrals.

  • Aissa Mandi, Algeria, January 2022

    Algeria

    Even though Algeria and Cameroon endured mixed fortunes at the Nations Cup, I’m predicting the Fennecs to get over the line in World Cup qualifying…and go some way to compensate for their failings at the Afcon.

    Despite falling out in the group stage, they enjoyed more possession, created more chances, and had more shots on goal than any other side during the opening matchdays of the Nations Cup, and they’re surely not too far away from being a complete side once again.

    You don’t rack up 35 matches without defeat if you’re not a special unit with a winning mentality, but will the Fennecs have to endure an Afcon hangover after their bitter failure in Cameroon?

  • Samuel Chukwueze, Youssef Msakni - Nigeria vs Tunisia

    Nigeria

    The West African derby between Nigeria and Ghana is set to be the hottest of all the five playoffs, with no love lost between these two regional heavyweights.

    The Black Stars, currently outside Africa’s top 10, are reeling after a miserable Nations Cup in which they were dumped out in the opening round, although they’ll be hoping a new management team can get them back on track as the World Cup looms.

    Nigeria looked a different league to their old foe following a superb group-stage campaign in which they took maximum nine points from their three matches, but they were brought crashing down to earth by Tunisia in the knockout stages.

    The Super Eagles surely aren’t going to throw this one away…are they?

  • Sofiane Boufal of Morocco.

    Morocco

    Also looking to bounce back following an underwhelming campaign, the Atlas Lions must prove they’re still a united camp after the troubled aftermath of their defeat by Egypt and the ongoing support of head coach Vahid Halilhodzic.

    He keeps his job, which means that Hakim Ziyech has hung up his (international) boots, and the Atlas Lions should have enough to see of a Democratic Republic of Congo side who didn’t even qualify for the Nations Cup.

    The Congolese are seeking to return to the World Cup for the first time since 1974, but they’ll surely need to lean heavily on home advantage in the first leg in Kinshasa.

  • Tunisia afcon 2022

    Tunisia

    Perhaps the toughest of the five ties to call, Mali are seeking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time—the only team still standing never to have done so—while Tunisia know what it takes to make it to the big time, having been present for four of the last six tournaments.

    The Carthage Eagles were defeated by Mali—in controversial circumstances—in the Nations Cup, but they know what it takes to get over the line, and have the experience to progress.

    Expect Tunisia to keep things tight and neutralise their opponents in the opening game in Bamako, before getting the job done in the return fixture.