Skip to content

Introduction to Africa’s ludicrous World Cup qualifying (because it’s re-started)

Jun 4, 2012, 4:34 PM EDT

Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba (L) vies for Getty Images

The world’s least forgiving World Cup qualifying process kicked off its second round this weekend in Africa. Forty teams drawn into 10 groups will be cut by 75 percent over the next 16 months, after which the survivors (the group winners) will be drawn into five two-legged (home-and-away) matches. The winners qualify for Brazil 2014.

It’s the only major qualifying tournament where no second place finishers advance to at least a playoff. In our neck of the woods (North America), second and third place finishers advance from the Hex (you don’t even have to win your preliminary group to make the final stage). In Europe, if you finish second in your group, you’re likely headed for a playoff. In South America, you could finish fifth an still make the show, while Asia is much like CONCACAF. As long as you keep finishing in second, you’re through.

This is the reason why Africa always has such shocking qualifying results. Egypt won three straight Cup of Nations from 2006 to 2010 yet haven’t qualified for a World Cup since 1990. They didn’t even qualify for 2012’s Cup of Nations. Cameroon, Nigeria, and Algeria also missed the tournament.

It’s a ridiculously unforgiving format made all the more ludicrous by not allowing Africa’s aspirants the same margins of error that nations like Argentina, Portugal, Uruguay, France, and Mexico used to make the last World Cup. While it’s hard to call a self-imposed process unfair, in a subtle way, the format undermines the World Cup.

Africa is rarely sending its best representative(s) to the world’s most prestigious event, something that not only hurts those nations but also us fans. I sure would have liked to see Ahmed Hassan compete in a World Cup.

This weekend, with 12 nations having already been shown out of the competition in preliminaries, Africa’s World Cup qualifying began in earnest. With only six games played in each group, losses are huge.

CAF World Cup Qualifying Results – Group by Group

Group A

Results: Central African Republic 2-0 Botswana; South Africa 1-1 Ethiopia

Implications: Central African Republic sprints to the top of the group, but the big story is South Africa dropping points at home. They were the group favorites and have now opened the door for an upstart. The result will cost South Africa’s coach his job.

Forecast: In this group, South Africa still has time to recover, but they’re a long way from Brazil.

Group B

Results: Tunisia 3-1 Equitorial Guinea; Sierra Leone 2-1 Cape Verde

Implications: Form is held. Tunisia scoring three times is encouraging, especially after giving up the opener. Sierra Leoea is a side that might be dangerous, though you couldn’t tell by this score.

Predictions: Tunisia still in position to contest a spot in Brazil.

Group C

Results: Cote d’Ivoire 2-0 Tanzania; Gambia 1-1 Morocco

Implications: It was a good day for Les Elephants. They held serve at home (with goals from Didier Droba and Salomon Kalou) and saw the two teams which could surprise split points in Banjul. Gambia’s squad was undermined by withdrawals, leading to a result which should debilitate their slim World Cup dreams.

Predictions: Cote d’Ivoire has given us no reason to think they’re not going through.

Group D

Results: Ghana 7-0 Lesotho; Sudan 2-0 Zambia

Implications: Dominic Adiyiah and Jordan Ayew are scored twice as the Black Stars opened with a rout. Overall impression: Yikes. Zambia, African champions, were dealt a not-to-surprising setback in Khartoum.

Predictions: Ghana’s clearly the group’s best team, but Sudan’s served notice. The teams don’t meet until March.

Group E

Results: Burkina Faso 0-0 Congo; Niger 0-0 Gabon

Implications: A terrible result for Burkina Faso, who would have “fancied” their chances to advance when this group was drawn. They responded by being drawn by one of the tournament’s weakest teams. Gabon, on the other hand, got a valuable point against a tough opponent.

Predictions: Gabon may now have the inside track.

Group F

Results: Nigeria 1-0 Namibia; Kenya 0-0 Malawi

Implications: Malawi gets a point on the road and becomes the most likely team to unseat Nigeria, though it’s strange to think of the Super Eagles as sitting on a perch. It’s been a while since they lived up to their hype, and after failing to impress against Namibia, it look like they could be had.

Predictions: This group’s still a crapshoot. Malawi hosting Nigeria this weekend could be the group’s most important game.

Group G

Results: Egypt 2-0 Mozambique; Zimbabwe 0-1 Guinea

Implications: A huge day for the Pharaohs, but more for societal reasons than anything that will effect World Cup qualifying. The played in font of an empty stadium, the country still coping with the Port Said tragedy. As fragile as Egypt has been in past qualifying campaigns, each match is an exercise in preserving egg shells. Bob Bradley, however, was the right hire for this kind of job, though his talents will be tested this weekend at Guinea.

Predictions: Egypt’s still the favorites. A point on Saturday will cement that status.

Group H

Results: Algeria 4-0 Rwanda; Benin 1-0 Mali

Implications: Algeria could be the group’s best team, but after an unsettled period in their soccer history, this group looked wide open. An opening match trouncing of Rwanda hints the Desert Foxes could be ready for another World Cup run. In Cotonou, Benin held serve against Mali, an obligatory result against a nation experiencing so many hardships at home.

Predictions: Algeria scoring four goals can’t be ignored. They’ve reclaimed the favorite’s spot.

Group I

Results: Cameroon 1-0 Congo DR; Togo 1-1 Libya

Implications: Great point for Libya, who seem set to build on their Cup of Nations qualification. A 1-0 win at home versus Congo DR hints Cameroon remains very much a Indomitable Lion. Samuel Eto’o is still serving his suspension.

Predictions: Libya looks dangerous. Cameroon still seems uninspired. The Lions are ready to be tamed. Again.

Group J

Results: Senegal 3-1 Liberia; Angola 1-1 Uganda

Implications: As we saw from Senegal’s early Cup of Nations exit, they rarely play up to their talent. This weekend, however, they couldn’t have asked for a better start. A decisive home win coupled with a draw in the group’s other match give the Lions of Teranga sole possession of first.

Predictions: One more weekend like this, and Senegal can’t help but go through.

More Info

Gary Al-Smith’s a bit of a go to on CAF qualifying. Check out his recap and follow him on Twitter.

Latest Posts
  1. Krieger credits Ellis, communication for United States’ defensive success

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    USA defender Ali Krieger (R) vies with Germany's forward Anja Mittag during their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final football match between USA and Germany at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal on June 30, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The U.S. hasn’t given up a goal in 513 minutes at this World Cup, heading into the final against Japan.

  2. MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew SC 2-1 New York Red Bulls

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:39 PM EDT

    Ethan Finlay, Columbus Crew SC Getty Images

    Kei Kamara -> Ethan Finlay (x2) was all Crew SC needed to jump three places in the Eastern Conference.

  3. 2015 Copa America awards: Vargas, Guerrero beat Aguero, Vidal to top scorer

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT

    Eduardo Vargas, Chile — 2015 Copa America semifinal Eduardo Vargas, Chile — 2015 Copa America semifinal

    Eduaro Vargas and Paolo Guerrero beat all the big names to the 2015 Copa America top scorer’s award.

  4. For Japan women’s national team, approach to game and life is team-first

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Members of Japan's national team joke during a training session in Vancouver on July 4, 2015, on the eve of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final against the US.   AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The solidarity between Japan teammates — and between the two teams contesting the final — is remarkable.

  5. Chile 0-0 (4-1 PKs) Argentina: Chile’s first Copa America title in 99-year history (video)

    Jul 4, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT

    Chile, 2015 Copa America champions Chile, 2015 Copa America champions

    It took 99 years, but Chile are finally champions of South America after defeating Argentina in a penalty shootout.

  6. Steven Gerrard’s first gift to his new LA Galaxy supporters — cases of California beer

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:28 PM EDT

    Steven Gerrard, LA Galaxy Steven Gerrard, LA Galaxy

    Steven Gerrard is winning points with LA Galaxy supporters before ever stepping on the field for his new club.

  7. Transfers confirmed: Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid sign Douglas Costa, Jackson Martinez

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:07 PM EDT

    Douglas Costa, FC Bayern Munich Getty Images

    Regulars in the latter stages of the Champions League, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid continue their summer spending sprees.

  8. FOLLOW LIVE — Copa America final: Messi, Argentina face hosts Chile

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Chile v Argentina - 2015 Copa America Chile Final Chile v Argentina - 2015 Copa America Chile Final

    We go once more at the 2015 Copa America. This time it’s Argentina vs. Chile for all the marbles.

  9. Busy international summer could give clubs plenty to plan for next season

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:24 PM EDT

    Messi Getty Images

    With international competitions all over the globe this summer, clubs may want to think about stockpiling depth and resting their best players throughout the course of next season.

  10. Lloyd, Brian prove crucial to United States’ turnaround at Women’s World Cup

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:09 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Carli Lloyd has taken rightfully taken over the spotlight, but Morgan Brian’s supporting role is no less important.

  11. Dinamo Zagreb president, manager arrested on bribery and tax evasion charges

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Mamic Getty Images

    Croatia’s most successful club has seen police throw its president and manager in prison.

  12. Sepp Blatter’s championing of women’s soccer leaves Megan Rapinoe unimpressed

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    Rapinoe Getty Images

    Popularity of women’s soccer has improved greatly the past few years, but there’s still much work to be done, and the US international isn’t happy with FIFAs parading of accomplishments.

  13. Report: Robin van Persie agrees to personal terms with Fenerbahce

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    VanPersie Getty Images

    With the Dutchman set to turn 32 before the start of the league season, Manchester United may look to cash in on his star power after a down year.

  14. Galatasaray officially unveils Lukas Podolski on a permanent transfer from Arsenal

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:22 AM EDT

    Podolski Getty Images

    The German international didn’t get a first-team guarantee from Arsene Wenger, so he moved on.

  15. Shaqiri proving a wanted man with Atletico Madrid and Spurs joining the mix

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:47 AM EDT

    Shaqiri Getty Images

    Stoke had an offer accepted by Inter, but two more clubs are reportedly in the mix for the Swiss international.

  16. Copa America Final preview: Argentina looks for first title since 1993 against hosts Chile

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:31 AM EDT

    Aguero Getty Images

    Argentina looks to end a 22-year continental trophy drought against the hosts who have never won the Copa America.

  17. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 1-0 DC United

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:15 AM EDT

    Marco Pappa AP

    Tyrone Mears scored an absolute beauty late in the match to down a ten-man D.C. United.

  18. Klinsmann on USMNT’s win over Guatemala: “I’m not happy with that performance”

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:08 AM EDT

    FBL-FRIENDLY-2016-NED-USA Getty Images

    Despite leaving Nashville with a 4-0 win, Jurgen Klinsmann was far from pleased with how the United States played.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip