10 African nations close in on qualification for 2014 world cup

October 9, 2013 7:11 pm0 comments by:

1270583_FULL-LNDThe 2014 World Cup is going to be staged in Rio, Brazil. A few countries in Europe, North and Central America have qualified for the finals and will compete for the World Cup. For a number of nations, they will be closer to qualification after playing this weekend. They include the 10 countries (Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Senegal, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Egypt) competing for the 5 spots to represent Africa.

These 10 countries have been paired together to play home and away matches. The winner from the 5 playoff matches will grab a world cup spot. The first leg matches are scheduled for 12th to 15th October 2013 and second leg scheduled for 16th to 19th November 2013. The draw pairs Tunisia vs Cameroon, Ghana vs Egypt, Ethiopia vs Nigeria, Burkina Faso vs Algeria and Ivory Coast vs Senegal. The pairings throw up 4 closely matched nations, with Ethiopia vs Nigeria match the odd one.

Tunisia against Cameroon
Tunisia will play Cameroon despite coming second to Cape Verde Island in Group B. Normally; Cape Verde Island should have been in the draw. However, the group winners Cape Verde Island were sanctioned and fined by FIFA for fielding an ineligible player.
The sanction related to Fernando Varela Cape Verde for playing in a match against Tunisia. He played in the game before serving in full a four match suspension. He was under suspension for receiving a red card for unsporting conduct towards a match official during a qualifier played on 24th March 2013.

In regards to the match, Tunisia has a new manager Ruud Krol (after the previous manager) quit the post for not automatically qualifying from the previous round. Tunisia had lost all away matches in Round 2.They laboured at the recent CAF 2013 and failed to qualify for the second stage. In addition, the new manager has omitted 2 of their key players Youssef Msakni and Qussama Darragi.
Cameroon is in better position and should grab qualification, if you compare the current form. Cameroon’s Coach Volker Finke has named Samuel Eto in the provisional squad. This is despite claims that Samuel Eto announced to his team mates his decision to quit the National Team. It is no surprise considering the team are struggling to score goals. I will admit the team is still competitive despite most of the golden age players out of the squad.
However, Cameroon has a better defence record and can rely on Samuel Eto to nick a goal to win any match. Tunisia seem to struggle to keep a clean sheet, although do not find scoring as difficult as Cameroon. I predict the first leg to be a draw and Cameroon winning the home leg at Yaoundé. This match up is different from the Ghana against Egypt. The two teams have similar strengths and weakness in football terms.

Ghana against Egypt

This is the tie of the Round 3 play offs match. It is unfortunate as this will result in a strong African team missing out on World Cup qualification. Ghana has a strong team to compete against any nation in the world. They proved their strength at the last World Cup, reaching the quarter Final. The majority of the current squad featured in that quarter final in South Africa 2010. They also qualified safely through Round 2 of this current World Cup qualifier
Their challenge is to beat Egyptian team 8 times African Champion that won all 6 of their Round 2 WCQ matches. This qualifying record is better than Ghana’s record of 5 wins and 1 loss. In addition, they have been consistent performance especially in Africa Competition.

I am tipping a Ghana victory as they have a better all round squad. They have also beaten Egypt 3-0 in a friendly match early this year. I will not be entirely surprised if Egypt beats Ghana at home and get an away draw. The team with a better mental focus at the away match will succeed. This close tie is completely different to the playoff match between Nigeria and Ethiopia

Ethiopia against Nigeria
Ethiopia is the lowest ranked of the 10 nations that qualified for play off (Round 3).Recently; they have been producing encouraging results. They qualified for the recent CAF 2013 and had credible performance against Burkina Faso and Nigeria (play off opponent). They lost 3-0 to Nigeria in that match up and it possible that a similar score aggregate score will happen in WCQ Round 3. You will be foolish to count them out completely, as they have improved from the last encounter. This is represented in their result against South Africa in WCQ Round 2.
However, Nigeria is a better team than South Africa and will be playing on better pitches (Home and Away). The pitch at Rustenberg, South Africa was terrible and hindered Nigeria’s passing game. They will also have a squad that is unchanged and with more international experience.
It will be a shock to most observers, if Nigeria does not qualify for the Rio World Cup. The fourth match up is between Burkina Faso against Algeria.

Burkina Faso against Algeria
This is like the match between Ghana and Egypt and can go either way. Burkina Faso is ranked 51st places and Algeria ranked 28th in the recent FIFA rankings. Algeria beat Mali in Round 2, a team ranked higher than Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso faced 3 opponents lowly ranked than 51st in Round 2. Generally, they play better in knock out competitions than Algeria. Burkina Faso lost to Algeria recently in June 2013, this after their exploits at CAF 2013 in January 2013, Burkina Faso finished first in a group comprising Nigeria and Zambia. These two teams are better than Algeria on recent form.

Burkina Faso also has European based attacking midfielders in Jonathan Pitropia, Alain Traore and Charles Kabore. Algeria has shown in the last round to have the attacking threats to score more goals. They scored 13 goals compared to 7 goals scored by Burkina Faso. This match will depend on who scores more goals in their home tie. Based on the stats, Algeria scored 8 goals at home than the total Burkina Faso scored in Round 2. Burkina Faso has the first crack at winning with a big margin. The final match is between Ivory Coast and Senegal.

Ivory Coast against Senegal
Ivory Coast’s Coach Sabri Lamouchi has recalled Kolo Toure for this crucial first leg against Senegal. I assume the reason is because of Kolo’s experience at international level and on domestic scene. He plays in the same English Premier league as Senegal’s main attacking forward Papiss Cisse. Ivory Coast goes into the game as favourites as they have a better technical squad. Senegal will fancy their chances with their 2 main attacking forwards, who play regularly in Europe club top teams. In my view, I favour a win for Ivory Coast with a close win margin.

In summary, there are 2 close ties between Burkina Faso, Algeria, Ghana and Egypt. These 2 ties could swing to any team and will be fiercely contested by both nations. There is a favourite in the other 3 ties.The winner of each pair will start planning for a trip to Rio 2013. Based on previous finals, they will leave it so late with arrangements. Nevertheless, Good Luck to all 10 teams. May the Best Team win and compete strongly at Rio 2014

Obioma Aguocha
Self Publisher:The Guide to being the Best (Paperback) 2007 & Sporting Success Simplified (E-book) 2012

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