03 October 2005

World Cup Qualifying: Africa

One region left to cover. Sorry that it's been slow in coming, but at the least I'll finish it before the final games. That's something, right?

Africa sends five nations to the finals. They figure this out through a first round of qualifying matchups, followed by a group stage with five groups. So, very simple: win your group and go to Germany. Each group has six teams, which leaves ten games apiece. They've already played nine, so you'd think that things are almost wrapped up.

You'd be wrong. All five spots are still up for grabs, with 10 teams still alive for the five spots. So let's look, group by group.

Group One is currently led by Togo, at 20 points. They're trailed by Senegal, with 18. In the final games, Senegal is home to Mali, while Togo are away to Congo. A tougher match for Togo, but they have the head-to-head advantage over Senegal. So a draw sees Togo through. Togo have not lost since 4 June 2004, so things look bright for Les Eperviers.

Group Two has Ghana atop the standings at 18 points, chased by Congo DR (Democratic Republic of Congo) and South Africa, both on 15 points. However, South Africa lost both matches with Ghana, so they're not going to qualify. Congo DR is still alive, as both their matches against Ghana were draws. South Africa hosts Congo DR, while Ghana travel to the Cape Verde Islands. Even if Ghana lose, Congo DR need to make up a five-goal deficit. Ghana will prevail.

Group Three comes down to two teams as well: Cameroon lead on 20 points, with Ivory Coast close behind at 19. Cameroon host Egypt, while Ivory Coast visits Sudan. Cameroon have become a fixture at World Cups, so it would be a disappointment if they missed Germany. But this is very much up for grabs. Cameroon started horribly, but have made a late run; they've won their last four matches, including a 3-2 away win at Ivory Coast on 4 September. I would pick the Lions to visit Germany next year.

Group Four is the tightest of the five. Both Angola and Nigeria are on 18 points, while Zimbabwe are trailing at 15. However, Zimbabwe are out, due to head-to-head record and goal differential. So the two powers will duke it out. Angola have the head-to-head advantage, so a win sees them through. They visit Rwanda, while Nigeria host Zimbabwe.

Finally, Group Five is led by Tunisia on 20 points, with Morocco just behind at 19. Guess who they play? Yes, Tunisia will host Morocco in the final group match. The first game between the two was a draw. So, Tunisia go through with a draw, but Morocco will control their own destiny. Tunisia are perfect at home, with a dominating 14-1 goalscoring advantage. So Morocco have their work cut out for them.

So that's the scoop. It's an interesting region, and teams are evenly matched. So expect a few surprises in the last matches. The final games are this weekend (8 and 9 October). So by Sunday afternoon, we'll know the complete story.

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