Golden Ticket: Who Will Represent Africa at the Qatar 2022 World Cup?

Ten African nations will vie for five tickets to the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East, Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Buildup to the games have seen an interesting lineup of fixtures including the meeting of agelong arch rivals, cup finalists, and former African champions.

Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, DR Congo, Mali and Egypt will battle to earn one of the five African tickets for the Mundial with the first leg of the World Cup qualifying games holding on Friday, 25th of March. 

West Africa has four teams battling for a ticket to the World Cup, with North Africa also presenting four teams. Central Africa has two in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Below is an analysis of the matchups;

DR Congo vs Morocco: Banana Skins for the Atlas Lions 

On Tuesday, Morocco arrived in DR Congo with their players and coaching crew. There were complaints over the handling of protocols and logistics with no Congolese delegation welcoming them. 

The Atlas Lions also claimed they were not given security and have had to pay $3,500 per day for private security.

DR Congo are the surprise package of the qualifiers. Their bid to go to the World Cup again after their appearance decades ago has been boosted by the presence of Young Boys attacker, Meshack Elia. Elia initially refused a callup to the national team ahead of the Morocco clash over issues he has with the Congolese Football Association.

Meshack Elia needed a Presidential call to play for DR Congo again

A call from the country’s President Felix Tsishekedi was vital in convincing him to heed to the national call. 

In Morocco, Congo face an opposition that have been together for a long period under manager Vahid Halihodzic. The North Africans have a rich blend of youthfulness and experience in their current squad with players like PSG’s Achrag Hakimi providing the extra quality on cold days.

At the AFCON, the Moroccans dominated most games but had profligacy to blame for their struggles. If they will make it to Qatar, they must convert their chances away from home against their less illustrious opponents.

Congo do not also mind providing a shocker in what is the most imbalanced fixture of the final playoffs. A rare victory in Kinshasa may set up a potentially interesting tie in Morocco.

Cameroon vs Algeria: The Desert Foxes Out To Convince Doubters 

Algeria suffered a rude and shocking exit at the group stage of the AFCON scoring just one goal at the competition.

Despite a rich list of attacking talents, led by Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, the Algerians couldn’t repeat their achievement in 2019.

Unarguably one of the best teams in Africa, Algeria missed out on the 2018 World Cup after an impressive outing at the 2014 World Cup where they lost in the round of 16 to eventual winners Germany. 

Another World Cup absence will be a colossal failure for the current generation of Algerian players especially after their struggles at the AFCON.

Cameroon, still smarting from their third-place finish at home at the AFCON last month, will hope to do the important job at home. 

With Samuel Etoo as head of the football federation and former captain and legend, Rigobert Song as national team coach, it’s a new dawn for the country. Song played at four World Cups and is Cameroon’s highest capped player with 137 appearances.

In Etoo, and Song, two of the greatest footballers ever in the nation’s history, Cameroon have enough nostalgia to direct their World Cup desire. Song’s squad for the games against Algeria has a new feel to it with some old faces like AFCON top scorer Vincent Aboubakar and Lyon attacker Karl Toko Ekambi still very present in the team. 

Goalkeeper, Andre Onana suffered a car crash on his way to the camp of the team but will be fit for both games against Algeria.

A tie that promises to be feisty and tension-soaked, it’s one of the most balanced matchups on the fixtures list.

Egypt vs Senegal: Egypt out to take a pound of flesh in AFCON final rematch 

Teranga Lions of Senegal will go head to head against their AFCON final opposition, Egypt in another tussle for a World Cup ticket. 

Senegal defeated Egypt on penalties at the final just over a month ago in what was a record-making feat for the West Africans. 

Egypt will host the African champions at the 65,000-seater Cairo International Stadium, hoping to take a pound of flesh against the opposition with the pains of the final still very much palpable. 

Liverpool duo, Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane will slug it out again for a place at the World Cup in a game that assures viewers of being denied one of the best players in the world in Qatar. 

Should Senegal beat Egypt to the ticket, it will be a double over the Pharaohs who qualified for the World Cup in 2018 for the first time in almost three decades, and will fancy another appearance at the World Cup, especially in Qatar.

Tunisia vs Mali: Who will soar higher in a clash of the Eagles?

The Eagles of Mali will host the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia in the first leg of their 2022 World Cup qualifier.

In Mali, Tunisia face a team that’s never been at the World Cup but has a rich collection of young internationals, arguably the most talented bunch in recent time.

Mohamed Magassouba has assembled a team of young, hungry footballers who want to achieve greatness with Mali.

Their major struggle at the AFCON was goalscoring and the team has added a real drive to their quality with the decision of Everton’s Abdoulaye Doucoure to switch allegiance to Mali.

In their midfield, they boast of some of the finest young players Africa has at the moment and can count on them to step up. 

Tunisia have shown they can be brilliant in moments with their defeat of Nigeria at the AFCON but also have their weaknesses on the plate as exhibited by their defeat to Burkina Faso.

They’re more experienced World Cup campaigners and have proven to have what it takes to nick a ticket in the past. 

Mali will take a go at a shot at the mundial and possible penalty shootout will not be surprising at the end of both legs. 

Nigeria vs Ghana: Jollof Derby, Brothers at War and a ‘Clash of Everything’

When Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa was asked about Nigeria’s game against Ghana, he said it’s a battle for everything – politics, Jollof, entertainment and more.

Football games between Nigeria and Ghana date as far back as 1950, with both nations facing 49 times. Nigeria have won just 10 times while Ghana have won 21 times with 18 games ending in a draw.

Nigeria will travel to the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi for the first leg, with a full complement of players invited including new additions. 

The Super Eagles will be without Wilfred Ndidi who’s missed out to injury and goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, as a result of COVID-19.

Both teams have new coaches at the helm with Emmanuel Amuneke joining Austin Eguavoen on the Nigerian bench while Ghana have appointed Chris Hughton, Otto Addo and George Boateng.

With banter already flying between both nations’ citizens and everyone associated with them, and a separate battle on the social media, the clash is more than a football game.

Nigeria have the attacking pair of Odion Ighalo and Victor Osimhen back in the fold after missing out on the AFCON while Ghana also invited some new faces to the team.

Winners between both teams will be one of the five teams to represent Africa at the World Cup. 

All five fixtures will be played on Friday, March 25th and Tuesday, March 29th. 

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