2022 World Cup campaign starts against Eritrea

The African preliminary draw for the 2022 World Cup which will take place in Qatar was made in Cairo on Monday, when 28 lower ranked African countries were drawn for the preliminary rounds, before the main qualifying campaign kicks off in March 2020.

According to the latest Fifa rankings, Namibia should start the encounter as strong favourites to progress to the qualifying stage of the World Cup.

Namibia is currently ranked 30th in Africa and 121st in the world, while Eritrea, at 54th is the lowest ranked African nation, while they are ranked 202nd in the world.

The first leg match will take place on 2 September with the return leg following a week later.

A total of 28 lower ranked African nations will be involved in the preliminary draw, with the 14 winners joining the top 26 African nations in the main World Cup qualifying campaign next year.

These 40 nations will be divided into ten groups of four each, which will be determined on a round robin basis.

The ten group winners will then be involved in five two-leg play off matches with the five winners qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Angola and Togo, who both represented Africa at the 2006 Fifa World Cup in Germany, have fallen down the rankings since then and will also be involved in the preliminary round matches.

Angola face a tough encounter against Gambia, who have improved a lot under the guidance of former Brave Warriors coach Tom Saintfiet.

Although they didn’t qualify for the recent Afcon finals in Egypt, Gambia beat Morocco 1-0 away in a warm-up match before Afcon, while they also drew to the eventual Afcon champions Algeria in a qualifying match in March.

Togo, who have tumbled down the world rankings to 34th in Africa and 128th in the world, will take on the Comoros Islands.

Other SADC nations that will be in action in the preliminary round draw include Botswana, who take on Malawi; Zimbabwe who face Somalia; Lesotho who face Ethiopia; eSwatini who take on Djibouti; Mauritius who take on Mozambique; and Seychelles who take on Rwanda.

The other preliminary matchups are as follows:

Burundi v Tanzania, Liberia v Sierra Leone, Sao Tome e Principe v Guinea Bissau, South Sudan v Equatorial Guinea, and Chad v Sudan.

Lesotho shock Bafana

Lesotho and Liberia, meanwhile, pulled off shock victories in qualifying matches on Sunday for the African Nations Championship (Chan) which is limited to local-based players.

Lesotho led twice in Maseru, before snatching a 3-2 triumph over South Africa through a Lehlohonolo Fothoane goal one minute from time.

Liberia left it even later to upset Senegal 1-0 in Monrovia with Christopher Jackson grabbing the match-winner in the final minute.

There was also drama in Antananarivo as Madagascar, the surprise side of the recent Afcon finals in Egypt, pipped Mozambique 1-0 through a stoppage-time goal.

Goals by Tsepo Seturumane and Hlompho Kalake for the Lesotho Crocodiles were cancelled by Tercious Malepe and substitute Livuyo Phewa, leaving the teams level after 78 minutes.

But with a draw looming, Fothoane, a 22-year-old midfielder who plays for top-flight club Bantu in a town 75 kilometres south of Maseru, stole the show.

Jackson is also 22 years old and plays for first division outfit Liberian International Shipping and Corporate Registry, popularly known as the Shipping Boys.

The victory was a timely boost for a country that has had little success internationally at national team and club levels recently and lie 132 places below Senegal in the world rankings.

None of the Senegal team that finished runners-up to Algeria at the Afcon final were, however, involved.

Arnaud Randrianantenaina scored three minutes into stoppage time for Madagascar, who far exceeded expectations by reaching the Cup of Nations quarter-finals in Egypt this month.

Madagascar fielded a vastly different team against Mozambique as only two of the 23 stars in their Afcon squad play for clubs based in Madagascar.

The aggregate winner between Madagascar and Mozambique will take on Namibia in the final qualifying round before next year’s Chan finals in Cameroon.

Tanzania had hopes of avenging an Afcon loss to Kenya last month dashed when the arch east African rivals fought to a 0-0 draw in Dar es Salaam. – Additional reporting by AFP

Source: Dehai Eritrea Online