Excitement is mounting ahead of the African qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, especially with the draw for the first round being made on Monday. There is something for everyone in the 14 ties, which feature derbies, reunions and more than one intriguing match-up.
After overseeing the draw, Ghanaian football legend Anthony Baffoe identified the West African duel between Liberia and Sierra Leone as the pick of the 14 ties.
“The countries have produced two of the continent’s great players: George Weah and Mohamed Kallon respectively,” said the former Black Star.
“Gambia v Angola and Botswana v Malawi will also be interesting ties,” he added. “The meeting between two teams that appeared at the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations [Burundi and Tanzania] should also be exciting.”
The ties will be played over two legs, to be held between 2 and 10 September 2019. The 14 winners will join the continent’s top 26 teams, who were all given first-round byes, to form the group of 40 sides that will contest the second round.
Did You Know?
old foes meet again
The last official meeting between the two was a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier that ended in a 2-1 victory for the Ethiopians, with all three goals truly spectacular strikes.
from opposite ends of the Ranking
Zimbabwe are the best-ranked of the 28 teams contesting the first round in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking for July 2019, lying 112th. In contrast, Somalia are the joint lowest, bringing up the rear in Africa in 202nd, a position they share with Eritrea.
a foregone conclusion?
Another clash of opposites. Surprise qualifiers for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, Namibia will be expected to see off the Eritreans, the joint lowest African team in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
too close to call
Judging by their recent appearances at the Africa Cup of Nations, which saw Burundi make their debut in the competition and Tanzania their first appearance in 39 years, this tie should be one of the tightest in the first round. The duel between Tanzania forward Mbwana Samatta and Burundi front man Fiston Abdul Razak will be one to watch.
revenge in the air
This tie presents Djibouti with an early opportunity to avenge their 6-0 and 2-1 defeats to Eswatini in the qualifiers for Russia 2018.
happy memories for the Flames
It was against Botswana that Malawi chalked up their record international win, an 8-1 victory on 13 July 1968, a result that is also Botswana’s heaviest defeat of all time.
experience could prove crucial
Of the 28 teams in action in the first round, Angola are – along with Togo – the only ones to have graced the World Cup, at Germany 2006. Meanwhile, Gambia have never so much as appeared at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Leone, a rivalry renewed
One of the few genuine derbies in the first round. “They won’t have too far to travel to knock the other one out,” said Baffoe at the draw ceremony.
history in the making again?
The Mauritians have happy memories of playing Mozambique, the islanders having beaten them 1-0 to record their first ever Africa Cup of Nations qualifying win back in 2015. Can they repeat the trick in a World Cup preliminary match?
Sao Tome e
Principe-Guinea Bissau, a battle of two Portuguese-speaking nations
There are six African countries where Portuguese is an official language. Sao Tome e Principe and Guinea Bissau are two of them.
Sudan-Equatorial Guinea, a score to settle
Like Botswana and Malawi, Equatorial Guinea recorded their biggest ever win against the South Sudanese: a 4-0 win in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Comoros and Togo will meet in the first round, having just been drawn together in the first round of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
the derby of the west
Aside from Liberia-Sierra Leone, this is the other derby in the first round. Chad and Sudan are neighbours and the rivalry between the two national teams is intense.
a first-time meeting
The two sides have never faced off in an official match before, with Seychelles aiming for their first ever win in a World Cup campaign.