Nairobi, Kenya (ViaNews) – African football has been on the ascendancy in the last couple of years with Confederation of African Football (CAF) at the heart of driving that change. In 2018, Africa will set on another course of discovery when its five representatives head to Russia for the FIFA World Cup. Prior to the most prestigious competition in world football, Morocco will host the very best that the continent has to offer in the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) tourney.
Needless to say, both tournaments will act as a measure of competitiveness for the teams and also gauge how far African football has grown since the turn of the century. However, the build-up to those competitions has been rocked by controversies that have subsequently needed the intervention of the ruling continental football body.
Africa’s road to Russia
The African qualifiers, as seen in the past, have been marred by a few incidences and called for CAF to stamp its authority. FIFA ordered a replay of the match between the Teranga Lions of Senegal and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana. This is after Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey was found culpable of match manipulation during the two nations’ November 2016 qualifier. The two teams clash in crucial back to back ties on 10th and 14th November that could determine which side seals the sole ticket to Russia.
Tunisia on the front foot in Group A
2004 African champions Tunisia are in the driving seat and only need a draw when they host Libya in a North African derby. Tunisia (13 points), a team that missed qualification for the 2014 World Cup, is three points ahead of Democratic Republic of Congo. DR Congo also has a mathematical chance of qualifying if Tunisia loses and a favourable goal difference comes by. The central African nation will, however, have to get the job done when tackling Guinea.
Nigeria is the real deal in Group B
The Super Eagles of Nigeria sealed their spot to Russia after a late strike from Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi secured a narrow 1-0 win over stubborn Zambia 1-0. This pool was undoubtedly touted as the ‘group of death’ as it also features current African champions Cameroon and powerhouses Algeria. Nigeria surprisingly dominated proceedings in the group and put all the other contenders to the sword. The West African nation tops on 13 points. Algeria faltered when it mattered and has managed just a single point in five matches. The Desert Foxes will play Nigeria in a dead rubber while 2012 champions Zambia host Cameroon.
Ivory Coast, Morocco to settle matters in Group C
Ivory Coast, African champions in 2015 have a stern test in their quest to qualify for their fourth consecutive World Cup. The Elephants, on eight points, tackle leaders Morocco at home with the predicament being pretty much straightforward. A win of any nature is required as they trail Morocco by a single point in this final round of group matches.
Unpredictable finale set for Group D
Senegal top this group with eight points having played only four matches. Following suit are Burkina Faso and Cape Verde locked on six points. However, both sides have played one game more than the leaders and bottom side South Africa (four points).
The Teranga Lions face South Africa twice in matches that Bafana Bafana has to prevail in order to progress. A win for Senegal in either match will be enough. Burkina Faso, on the other hand, has an outside of also qualifying but they will have to beat Cape Verde and hope that the other results are kind to their cause inclusive of goal difference.
Pharaohs reign supreme to be kings of Group E
Egypt relied on Liverpool forward Mohammed Salah’s late penalty to beat Congo 2-1 and quash any hope of Ghana’s appeal bearing any fruit. After dominating football in the last decade with three African Cup of Nations titles (2006, 2008 and 2010), the Egyptians have always hit a brick wall when it came to qualification for the biggest stage in those respective World Cup campaigns.
Salah’s goal ensured that his side tops the group with 12 points ahead of a formidable Uganda side (eight points). The Black Stars of Ghana have qualified for consecutive World Cup since 2006 and even reached the last eight for only the second time by an African country in 2010. The losses of several first-team players to injury all but hampered their campaign strategy and were made to pay as a result.
Morocco gets the nod after Kenya is stripped of hosting rights again
Kenya for the second time failed to uphold its mandate as hosts of a continental football showpiece. The East African country was stripped of hosting CHAN 2018 after CAF made the determination that there were slow preparations.
The Kenyan government could not commit to hosting the 1996 African Cup of Nations despite being awarded the rights. South Africa eventually took the mantle and went ahead to be crowned champions. Morocco will host next year’s competition that brings together players that ply their trade in Africa.
CHAN 2018 qualified teams
Morocco (hosts), Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Uganda, Libya, Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Guinea, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ethiopia or Rwanda (playoff set for November 5 & 12)