CAF June World Cup Qualifying Preview – Groups A-E

Tanzania will look to fight off the "Bump 'n' Grind" of Morocco

Tanzania will look to fight off the “Bump ‘n’ Grind” of Morocco

 

Here at We Global, we pride ourselves in bringing you coverage from all corners of the globe.  With the club scene all but finished, FIFA wasted no time in getting national teams back into the spotlight with a multitude of World Cup qualifiers, Confederations Cup, regional and confederation championships, and warm-up friendlies.  So far, we’ve taken an extensive look at the Asian, European and North and South American World Cup standings and predictions.  What about Africa you ask? Ask no more.  The much anticipated CAF World Cup preview is finally here.

CAF is a difficult region to cover as there are few reliable sources for information, and streams of games can be tough to find.  We go to great lengths to bring you complete and accurate information regarding all the matches that actually matter.  World Cup Qualifiers are the most important matches held in the CAF region this summer, despite other competitions such as CHAN and the Cosafa Cup taking place as well.

The CAF qualifying has been limited to 1 matchday in the past year due to the 2013 edition of the Nations Cup in South Africa.  This has allowed every team to be in contention to this point, but that isn’t going to last much longer.

In this preview, we’re going to cover Matchday 4 for groups A thru E.  We’ll take a look at the scheduled matches, give you a prediction, and project the standings after the result.  Let’s go!

 

Group A

Central African Republic v South Africa – June 8th – Yaounde, Cameroon

These two teams have been somewhat disappointing in qualifying thus far.  Before the group began, most people expected South Africa to roll.  They stumbled to a home draw with Ethiopia in matchday 1, drew away to lowly Botswana in matchday 2, but righted the ship with a 2-0 over Central African Republic in matchday 3.

Central African Republic haven’t been any better, with their only points coming from a 2-0 win over Botswana in matchday 1.  They haven’t done themselves any favors here by losing the right to host a match due to security concerns in the capital of Bangui.

Points are a must for both of these teams in this match.  A win by South Africa would see them go 5 points clear of Central African Republic with 2 matches to play.  It’s imperative Central African Republic keep pace.

Prediction:  Draw

 

Botswana v Ethiopia – June 8th – Lobatse, Botswana

Big spot here for Botswana as they host 2 home qualifiers this month.  They’ve struggled so far, only able to scrape out a single draw from 3 matches.  They’ve also had problems scoring recently.  3 goals in the last 7 matches isn’t anything to hang your hat on.  They’re going to need some more firepower if they intend on getting this campaign back on course.

Ethiopia on the other hand surprisingly leads Group A.  They collected their first ever AFCON Finals point this year by drawing Zambia 1-1.  A recent 2-0 win over Sudan in a warm-up match seems to have the Walia Antelopes headed in the right direction.

Prediction:  Draw

 

Projected Standings
Team Points Games Status
Ethiopia 8 thru 4
South Africa 6 thru 4
Central African Republic 4 thru 4
Botswana 2 thru 4 *Eliminated

 

Group B

Cape Verde Islands v Equatorial Guinea – June 8th – Praia, Cape Verde Islands 

What a dismal qualifying for Cape Verde.  It’s truly been a tale of two teams with this squad.  They’ve simply been unable to replicate the form that saw them qualify for their first ever Cup of Nations this past January.  They are the only team that currently does not have a point! Out of 40 nations, they stand alone in that regard.  To their credit, all 3 losses have come by 1 goal.

Equatorial Guinea have found a little more success than their opponents so far.  They posted an impressive 4-3 home win over Cape Verde in the last qualifier, which actually saved their campaign after drawing with Sierra Leone at home in matchday 2.  Unfortunately for them, the pressure is squarely on in this match.  Tunisia have a stranglehold on the group and any result here may not matter.

Prediction:  Cape Verde Islands by 1

 

Sierra Leone v Tunisia – June 8th – Freetown, Sierra Leone 

This is the most dreaded CAF fixture in history for We Global.  These teams were also paired up in AFCON qualifying last summer.  For whatever reason, Sierra Leone had Tunisia’s number last fall and it cost WGF dearly.  That being said, Tunisia are undefeated against Sierra Leone in their last three matches.

Sierra Leone also have a ton of pressure on them heading into this match.  With Tunisia perfect through 3, they have no other option but to claim points here.  If they lose, they’re out.  There’s no other way around it.  There should be tremendous support for the Lone Stars, but this star is approaching supernova.

Prediction:  Tunisia by 1

 

Projected Standings
Team Points Games Status
Tunisia 12 thru 4 *Advanced
Sierra Leone 4 thru 4 *Eliminated
Equatorial Guinea 4 thru 4 *Eliminated
Cape Verde Islands 3 thru 4 *Eliminated

 

Group C

Morocco v Tanzania – June 8th – Marrakech, Morocco 

Morocco are very similar to Cape Verde in that they qualified for AFCON 2013 but have struggled mightily in Brazil 2014 qualifying.  They currently sit in 3rd behind surprise package Tanzania and the heavy favorites, Cote d’Ivoire.  This is an absolute, 100%, must win match for Morocco.  They dropped the reverse fixture 3-1 in March and simply can’t afford a similar fate here.

Tanzania, on the other hand, have performed quite admirably to date.  They’ve gotten the away fixture to Cote d’Ivoire out of the way and have claimed home wins over Morocco and Gambia.  However, at home is simply where qualification is lost.  It is on the road where teams must perform to advance.  If they steal a result here, the matchday 5 fixture at home to Cote d’Ivoire could be the biggest in their history.  In the words of R. Kelly, my mind is telling me no, but my body is telling me yes.

Prediction:  Morocco bump ‘n’ grind to a 1 goal victory.

 

Gambia v Cote d’Ivoire – June 8th – Bakau, Gambia

This is truly a David v Goliath fixture for Gambia here.  Gambia is winless in their last 10, dating back to 2011.  In football anything can happen, but Gambia are truly up against it here.  A loss will eliminate them, so they have everything to play for.  If they show any signs of fear or intimidation, the Elephants will make quick work of them.

As for Cote d’Ivoire, they must still be reeling after another failed AFCON quest.  They were upset by Nigeria in the quarterfinals this time around, and probably missed out on their last chance for a major title.  What better way to turn things around than with back to back qualifiers against lowly Gambia.  This is the biggest lock in matchday 4.  Expect them to handle their business and move one step closer to the final round.

Prediction:  Cote d’Ivoire by 4

 

Projected Standings
Team Points Games Status
Cote d'Ivoire 10 thru 4
Tanzania 6 thru 4
Morocco 5 thru 4
Gambia 1 thru 4 *Eliminated

 

Group D

Sudan v Ghana – June 7th – Khartoum, Sudan

Oh, Sudan, what have you done!?  Last summer, they posted a very impressive 2-0 win over Zambia and sat only 2 points behind group leaders Ghana.  This match would have been absolutely cracking.  However, FIFA caught them with their hand in the cookie jar.  Sudan was stripped of that 2-0 win as FIFA found they had illegally used a player who was ineligible due to yellow card accumulation.  Zambia was saved and awarded a 3-0 win.  Sudan now sit dead last on 1 point and have almost no shot at advancing.

As a result, Ghana now sit second behind Zambia.  Don’t let the standings fool you.  Sudan away will be a test for Ghana.  They know they need to keep pace with Zambia to have a shot at advancing, so I wouldn’t expect them to mess around.  Despite what the standings say, Ghana are still the favorite in this group.

Prediction:  Ghana by 1

 

Zambia v Lesotho – June 8th – Ndola, Zambia

As stated, Zambia now lead Group D after the Sudan blunder.  They have a great chance to lead Group D thru 4 matches as they welcome perennial bottom feeders Lesotho.  Zambia have been preparing for this match for quite some time.  As reported by the Zambian press last month, the national stadium had gone under attack.  Army worms were invading the stadium! One can only presume this was a ploy to compromise the visitors’ locker room and make life miserable for Lesotho.

Lesotho on the other hand held the Zambians to a 1-1 draw at home last matchday.  This could be something for them to build on heading into the match.  That result may be the one Zambia come to rue most when they find themselves watching the next round from home.  That’s beside the point here.  Zambia stroll through the army worm park, making this group a 2 worm race.

Prediction:  Zambia by 4

 

Projected Standings
Team Points Games Status
Zambia 10 thru 4
Ghana 9 thru 4
Lesotho 2 thru 4 *Eliminated
Sudan 1 thru 4 *Eliminated

 

Group E

This is another group that has been turned on its head.  Two matches have been overturned by FIFA as a result of ineligible players, thus paving the way for Congo to this point.  Who said nice guys finish last?

Gabon v Congo – June 8th – Franceville, Gabon 

Gabon was another team sitting in prime position this qualifying cycle.  They had 4 points thru the first 2 qualifiers after stealing a draw in Niger and beating AFCON runner up Burkina Faso at home.  FIFA had written up a nice article on the squad highlighting early success and liked their chances moving forward.  That’s where the good news stops.  Gabon would later be stripped of their draw with Niger.  FIFA found that Charly Moussono, who played in this match, had actually featured for Cameroon at the 2006 FIFA Beach World Cup.  Niger was subsequently awarded a 3-0 win.  What a disaster.

Congo, the group’s golden boys all of the sudden, sit alone at top of group E on 9 points.  They do face a tricky test away to Gabon who have proven themselves as competitive so far.  If Congo can get out of town with some points, they’re going to be in great shape going forward.  Easier said than done.

Prediction:  Gabon by 1

 

Niger v Burkina Faso – June 9th – Niamey, Niger 

Niger have benefited tremendously from Gabon’s gaffe mentioned above.  They sit 6 points back of Congo and can close the gap here with a familiar opponent at home.  Having faced Burkina twice already this year, they certainly know what it will take to claim 3 points.  Knowing what to do and executing that plan successfully are two different things, however.  They’re 0 for 2 in the previous meetings.

Burkina Faso have also felt the wrath of FIFA this campaign.  They were stripped of their 0-0 draw at home to Congo after FIFA found that Herve Zengue had zero ties to the nation.  Apparently using any player you want in a World Cup Qualifying match is frowned upon.  They’re now in a 3 way tie for 2nd place in the group.  This is a good opportunity to right the ship and see about catching the Congolese.

Prediction:  Burkina Faso by 1

 

Projected Standings
Team Points Games
Congo 9 thru 4
Burkina Faso 6 thru 4
Gabon 6 thru 4
Niger 3 thru 4

** Any points earned by Congo against Gabon will put Burkina and Niger in trouble.  If Burkina or Niger fails to match Congo’s output in their game against Gabon, they will be eliminated.

 

I hope you enjoyed the first half of our CAF preview.  Stay tuned for more as we preview groups F thru J in the coming days.  Thanks for reading and staying loyal to We Global!

CAF Correspondent
-Matt

 

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