Just as in every other continent, the World Cup qualification was also at stake in Africa with the CAF World Cup qualifiers (CAF WCQ) taking centre stage. Although 20 teams were all in action during the weekend, the spotlight was only on a select few.
Before the 5th round of games, countries like Guinea, Mali, and Algeria were already out of the running for qualification. As the weekend’s games drew near, there were only a few questions like:
- Which African country will be the first to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup?
- Will Nigeria beat Zambia and qualify for the tournament with a game to spare?
- How will events in Groups C and D – the tightest ones – play out?
Well, after the weekend’s action, some of these games have been answered. And that’s what we will be discussing in this article. What are the things that have happened in the CAF WCQ journey so far?
Two Countries Have Qualified
On Saturday, Nigeria became the first African country to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Russia. The fact that they did that without losing a game and also with one game to spare says a lot about the current squad and how things have become better for the Super Eagles.
Another country that qualified for the tournament is Egypt. The North African side qualified for the tournament after beating Congo at home 2-1 and sparking nationwide jubilation. It was also the first time the Egyptians qualified for the biggest tournament in the world after 28 years of absence.
There were two standout refereeing decisions that stood out during the weekend. It’s a norm when referees make mistakes. They’re only human after all, right? But what happens when those decisions are weighty enough to deny a team qualification for the FIFA World Cup?
In the game between Nigeria and Zambia, the Zambians found their way past the Nigerian defense and scored what was supposed to be the opening goal of the game. But it wasn’t as the Zambian player that scored the goal was ruled offside.
While this decision came as a relief to the millions of Nigerians watching the game, the Zambians felt as if the call was a controversial one. It looked too close to call on T.V despite the many reviews and the Zambians must be wondering what could have been.
There was a controversial end to the game between Uganda and Ghana which ended in a 0-0 draw. Ghana had a goal from Raphael Dwamena ruled out for offside in stoppage time. The Ghanaians, feeling they were robbed, are now lodging a protest with FIFA over refereeing decisions during the match, according to the Ghana Football Association (GFA).
The Race to Qualify
There are three more slots left for African representatives at the tournament. While qualification has been well sorted out in Groups B and E, the race for qualification in the other groups got even tighter after the weekend’s games.
In Group A, Tunisia and DR Congo are still in with a shot to qualify. In Group C, Morocco and Ivory Coast – 1st and 2nd in the group respectively – will battle it out for the World Cup ticket allotted to the winner of that group.
In Group D, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde Islands all still have a shot of representing Africa in Russia next summer. (Imagine Cape Verde qualifying for the World Cup. Just imagine it!)
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As we look forward to a weekend of club football, what were your high points and low points of the CAF Qualifiers this weekend? Share your answers with us by leaving us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.Tags: CAF