With the confirmation of dates, time and venues of the 10 World Cup play-off for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 African Qualifiers later this month, one takeaway is the fact that each leg of the play-off will be on the same day.
All the five first leg matches will be played on 25 March while the second leg matches are on 29 March.
The timings are almost the same. On the first match day, DR Congo host Morocco in Kinshasa, Mali and Tunisia in Bamako as well as Cameroon and Algeria in Douala will all be played at 17.00 hours GMT which is 6pm Nigerian time.
The two other matches of the day , Egypt hosting Senegal in Cairo and Ghana at home against Nigeria in Cape Coast will hold at 17;30 GMT which will be 8.30pm in Nigeria.
In the return legs on 29 March, the first two matches of the day – Senegal vs Egypt in Dakar and Nigeria vs. Ghana in Abuja will hold at 17:00 (6pm in Nigeria). Then at 19:30 GMT (8:30pm in Nigeria), Algeria will host Cameroon in Blida; Tunisia will host Mali in Tunis while Morocco will host DR Congo in Casablanca.
These matches are coming up after intense rounds which saw the participation of all 54 teams that contested to the last stage which has 10 still in contention for the five African places at the prestigious world tournament.
Four of the 10 matches will be repetition of similar fixtures at the last Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Easily recalled is the Tunisia versus Mali duel which got controversial over the premature final blasts of the whistles. In similar vein also will be the repeat of the final match that pitched Senegal against Egypt. Better still, two more epic confrontations of Liverpool stars – Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
In the 10 teams, only Mali have never qualified for the World Cup. To achieve their first, Mali have called for reinforcements on the team’s bench, with the arrival of former internationals such as Frédéric Kanouté, Mohamed Lamine Sissoko, Eric Chelle and Seydou Keita to support current coach Mohamed Magassouba.
For countries like Cameroon, the African nation holding the record for participation in the World Cup with seven appearances, or Nigeria with their six appearances, it will first be a question of extending their records.
Morocco and Tunisia have participated in the world tournament five times and hope to return to the world stage.
These are three participations each for the Black Stars of Ghana and the Pharaohs of Egypt. And why not a fourth appearance?
African Champions Senegal are still on cloud nine and a third participation in World Cup after 2002 and 2018 will be the icing on the cake.
As for Algeria, they are aiming to revive after an early elimination from the AFCON 2021. What could be better than a quest for a place in the FIFA World Cup?
DR Congo (then Zaire) got a glimpse of World Cup in 1974. Forty eiight years later, The Leopards are ready to return.