By DEWAH Fabrice TEH
Sports writer, Kick442.com-Cameroon
The fifth and sixth rounds of African zonal qualifiers to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will get on the way across the continent this Thursday November 11, 2021 and will run till November 16 with several key games and duels programmed in the ten groups as 40 countries go head-to-head in search of 10 tickets in the final stages of the African qualifiers.
Lions fate in Flames hands, Elephants boastfully threatening
Amongst the teams battling for spots will be Cameroon with the senior men’s national football team. The Indomitable Lions led by Coach Antonio Conceicao matching up against the Elephants of Ivory Coast on November 16, 2021 at the Japoma Stadium in Douala in what both countries have described as the final of group D qualifiers.
These, considering the historic rivalry both countries have shared in years past including their famous meetings in 2005 in the build-up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
But beneath the Ivory Coast-Cameroon game, lays a do or die fixture for the Indomitable Lions against Pool D third place warmers Malawi.
The Malawian Flames tally 3 points in 4 games and are numerically out of the race, but the Cameroon-Malawi game on Friday, as analysts predict, will technically turn out to be the turning point in the Lions’ quest to book tickets to the final round.
With the Lions presently counting 9 points in four games, and currently ranked a point below Ivory Coast with 10, the Lions will need a win against the Southern Africans to reduce the pressure before heading to the final game against Sebastien Haller and mates.
A win for captain Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in Johannesburg against Malawi, will put the five time African champions at 12 points and well placed to overturn the team’s point deficit against their arch rivals and two time African champions, Ivory Coast at the Japoma Stadium where as demanded by the Cameroon Football Federation, at least 25 thousand spectators will be expected to attend push the Lions to a much needed victory.
Excitingly tough race across Africa
Apart from the highly awaited Lions game against Malawi and Ivory Coast, other pools will be lighted up by brilliant and stakes-filled fixtures on the African continent.
Foxes, Stallions in logger-heads
Group A will be one of the biggest pools to look up where African champions Algeria and Burkina Faso are in for the exciting show.
The Desert Foxes of Algeria and the Stallions of Burkina Faso both tally 10 points each before their day five games.
The two remain unbeaten as they head to the fifth day of play where Algeria led by Captain Riyad Mahrez will be battling out with Djibouti at the Cairo International Stadium while the Stallions manned by Bertrand Traore and Charles Kabore will also be traveling up North to welcome Niger at the Grand Marrakech Stadium in Morocco also on November 12.
These, before their final clash during the final fixtures in Algiers as the two go in search of one available ticket to the last and knockout stages.
Carthage Eagles a win from next round
In group B, pool toppers Tunisia with 10 points harvested in four games, will be in Malabo to face second placed Central Africans, Equatorial Guinea at the Estadio de Malabo on November 13 in day five while third and fourth ranked Zambia and Mauritania test soccer strength at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
These with a win for the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia to hand the North Africans a ticket to the next round with a game to spare.
Ruthless Bafana Bafana, Black Stars in quest for dominance
Four time African champions, Ghana will also be going head-to-head with South Africa in Group G on November 15 in the pool’s most awaited fixture at the Cape Coast Stadium in Accra.
But before that, Captain Andre Ayew and the Black Stars of Ghana in search of a fourth FIFA World Cup participation and their second since the team’s historic run in South Africa in 2010, will be journeying to the Orlando Stadium in South Africa to match up with third placed Ethiopia on match day 5, with the North Africans counting 3 points in four games.
Group leaders South Africa with 10 points, will face fellow Southern Africans, Zimbabwe at the FNB Stadium on November 11 before traveling to West Africa where 2017 AFCON winning coach, Hugo Bross will be up against a experienced Serbian gaffer Milo Rajevac.
Eagles battles Cranes in Pool E
Another exciting log to follow during the last two days of the group phase is Group E where Mali and Uganda are leading the battle with 10 and 8 points respectively.
The Eagles of Mali Coached by Mohammed Magassouba will be facing bottom seated Rwanda in Kigali on Thursday November 11 before meeting up with rivals, the Cranes of Uganda in Bamako three days later.
A victory for the Malians at the Kigali National Stadium will place the West Africans a point from the final stages as a rejuvenated Uganda Cranes also continue their quest to reach the final phase of a major competition after missing out from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations months after their memorable participation in the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.
Beninese squirrels chase new found wonder kids, Taifa Stars of Tanzania, in Pool J, Leopards remains hopeful.
Perhaps one of the highly underrated groups. In pool J, Tanzania and Benin both tied at 7 points are leading the race in the widely opened -group where the Democratic Republic of Congo of in-form ace striker Dieumerci Mbokani are ranked second with 5 points, two below pool toppers and two points above rock bottom Madagascar with 3.
Both Tanzania and Benin are chasing their maiden participation at the final phase of the FIFA World Cup and both look poised to giving their all to reach the knock-out stage when they face Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Pharaohs a win from next round, Super Eagles steadily chasing Indomitable Lions record.
Egypt tops group F and a win for the Pharaohs at the 11 November Stadium in Luanda against host Angola on Friday November 12 will hand Mohammed Salah and team mates access to the last round with a game in hand.
Meanwhile in Group C, West African giants Nigeria look set to seal their ticket to the final round.
The Super Eagles who picked a shocking 1 nil lost to the Central African Republic during their day 3 fixture in Lagos, remain top of the log with 9 points, two above second placed Cape Verde whom they receive at home before heading to meet Liberia during match day 6.
These, as the three time Africa champions consolidate hopes of equaling Cameroon’s record 7 participation with a place in Qatar next year.
Morocco and Senegal both sealed their tickets after match day four with the two counting 12 points and leading pools I and H respectively.
A total of 10 teams will qualify and participate in the knockout stages of the African zonal qualifiers after which five countries will represent the continent at the 2022 FIFA World Cup scheduled to take place in Qatar between November and December next year.
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