The second round of African qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ kicked off last month with 40 teams vying for just 10 berths in the final round. With only six games each to keep their qualification dreams alive, any setback can have dire consequences.
With the tournament just around the corner, the boys are gradually being separated from the men. As at now, several of the countries have so far proven themselves by winning almost all their games, whilst others are managing themselves in the qualifiers.
In Africa, Senegal and Morocco have advanced to final round of the qualifiers. There is also a close battle between Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana and South Africa.
Algeria are under pressure from Burkina Faso but they have control over their own destiny as to whether they can qualify or not.
Two teams who could be biting their nails nervously come the final matchday are Ghana and Cameroon, in contrast to Morocco and Senegal, who have both taken maximum points thus far and are already through to the next phase.
South Africa, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Nigeria and Tunisia, all former World Cup participants, remain in control of their own destinies, as do Tanzania and Mali, who currently top their respective groups and harbour dreams of a maiden appearance on the world stage.
Flawless Morocco and Senegal progress
With four wins in as many matches, the Atlas Lions and their Teranga counterparts are assured of top spots in Groups I and H respectively and can enjoy their final two fixtures free of pressure.
Morocco, who had three games in just six days, recorded emphatic back-to-back wins over Guinea-Bissau (5-0 and 3-0), followed by a comfortable victory over Guinea (4-1).
Just as impressive as those wins was the convincing manner in which they were achieved, something that has occasionally been ben lacking since the beginning of Vahid Halilhodzic’s tenure.
Senegal needed just four matchdays to win their group, with the two most recent bringing consecutive victories against Namibia (4-1, 3-1). After scoring in the first of those two games, alongside star striker Sadio Mane, Famara Diedhiou netted a hat-trick in yesterday’s second encounter to guarantee the progress of Aliou Cisse’s side.
Reigning African champions Algeria remain unbeaten and atop the group on goal difference from Burkina Faso. Les Fennecs’ two wins this week ended the hopes of Djibouti and Niger and set up a showdown with Les Etalons on 14 November in Algeria.
Tunisia dropped their first points of the campaign away to Mauritania (0-0) this week but retain top spot thanks to a 3-0 triumph a few days earlier against the same opponent. Second placed Equatorial Guinea, who took four points from their two meetings with Zambia in this window, will need the Carthage Eagles to drop more points when they meet twice in November if they are to deny them top spot in the group.
Nigeria’s October 7 home-defeat to modest Central African Republic (1-0) certainly sent shockwaves around Africa. However, the Super Eagles made amends a few days later by winning the return fixture (2-0) to retain top spot. Do not rule out Cape Verde, however, who lurk just two points behind the leaders after their two wins over Liberia. The latter and Central African Republic are out of the running but could still have a say in proceedings in their respective outings against Nigeria and Cape Verde on the penultimate matchday, before the top-two square off in their final fixture.
Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon both took maximum points from their respective double headers with Malawi and Mozambique, who are both now out of contention. Top spot in the group will likely only be decided when the leading pair go head-to-head on the final day.
The Indomitable Lions, who went down to the Elephants in the corresponding away fixture, have to win the home meeting, provided neither drop points on the penultimate day, when the Ivorians host the Mambas, and the Cameroonians visit Malawi.
After ending the hopes of Kenya and Rwanda, front runners Mali and Uganda can look forward to a potentially decisive clash on the final matchday. For now, Les Aigles hold a two-point lead and will also have home advantage against Uganda on November 14. The pair played out a scoreless draw in September in Entebbe.
Group favourites Egypt reasserted their dominance in this window with back-to-back wins over second-placed Libya (1-0, 3-0). Now four points clear, the Pharaohs are odds-on to reach the next round, given their two remaining fixtures are against already-eliminated Angola and a Gabon side almost certainly out of the running.
Ghana’s two wins (3-1, 1-0) in four days against Zimbabwe, with two goals from Thomas Partey, including a free-kick to secure the points in Harare, has kept them firmly in the hunt for top spot. That still belongs to South Africa, who also took maximum points from their two meeting with Ethiopia (3-1, 1-0). As a result, the Black Stars are still one point behind the Bafana Bafana, who they will need to beat on the final matchday provided neither slip up against the already-eliminated Ethiopia and Zimbabwe in their penultimate fixtures.
There is still all to play for in this section with all four teams still mathematically able to progress, even if Congo DR (3rd) and Madagascar (4th), who each won at home against the other last week, no longer have their fate in their own hands. Pole position is currently occupied by Tanzania by virtue of having scored two more goals than Benin. The leading pair exchanged 1-0 away wins in this window and will finish their quest to reach the next round against the Leopards and Madagascans next month.
Meanwhile, Mexico make it seven points from nine this week with victory in El Salvador. USA and Canada collect comeback wins at home with the Canucks jumping into third
Jamaica revive their campaign with a rare away win in Honduras
North, Central America and the Caribbean
USA 2-1 Costa Rica
Canada 4-1 Panama
Honduras 0-2 Jamaica
El Salvador 0-2 Mexico🇲🇽
Saudi Arabia maintained their unblemished record for four wins from four starts
Australia’s winning streak ended with a dramatic 2-1 defeat in Japan. And Iran kept their two-point lead intact despite being held at home by Korea Republic.
Saudi Arabia emerged the only team to stay perfect in the third round, recording another pair of victories at home to move three points clear of Australia who saw their record 11-match winning streak brought to a halt by Japan.
There were no changes at the top of Group A, however, with IR Iran maintaining their two-point cushion despite playing out a 1-1 draw against Korea Republic at home. Lebanon, meanwhile, moved into third after bravely winning against Syria.
Japan and Oman, too, registered a second win each to put their respective campaigns back on track. Elsewhere, China PR edged out Vietnam 3-2 to keep their hopes alive, while United Arab Emirates and Iraq are still search for their first victory.
Japan 2-1 Australia, Saitama Stadium
Goals: Ao Tanaka 8; Ajdin Hrustic 70, Aziz Behich (o.g.) 85
Japan welcomed Australia in what was their seventh World Cup qualifying encounter, having each claimed a win and four draws in the past six meetings. The visitors entered the fray aiming to consolidate their lead, while the under pressure hosts were desperate to put their 1-0 defeat to Saudi Arabia behind them.
Korea Republic 2-1 Syria
Iraq 0-0 Lebanon
United Arab Emirates 0-1 Iran
Saudi Arabia 1-0 Japan
China 3-2 Vietnam
Oman 1-3 Australia
Iran 1-1 Korea Republic
United Arab Emirates 2-2 Iraq
Syria 2-3 Lebanon
Japan 2-1 Australia
Saudi Arabia 3-2 China
Oman 3-1 Vietnam
Interestingly, Australia are now winless against Japan for 12 years with their last victory coming on the road to South Africa 2010 when they won 2-1 at home on the back of a Tim Cahill brace.
Mexico the outright leader on 14 points
USA and Canada within striking distance
Jamaica record their first win of Octagonal
Mexico remain in pole position in the Concacaf qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ after taking seven points from their three fixtures in the October window.
Their nearest pursuers, USA and Canada, remain within touching distance, while just three points separate the teams occupying berths four to seven. FIFA.com looks at some of highlights of this month’s games.
Mexico ended El Salvador’s run of six home games unbeaten without conceding a goal. And Canada have now gone 13 games unbeaten in World Cup qualifiers.
Honduras had gone six games without conceding to Jamaica in home World Cup qualifiers. The last time the Reggae Boyz found the net there was in December 1968.
Despite playing in defence, Mexico’s Hector Moreno has now scored three times at El Salvador’s Estadio Cuscatlan in World Cup qualifying (2012, 2016 and 2021).