As promised, here is the continuation of our CAF preview.
For groups A thru E, click here
This group has been challenging to predict thus far. It’s a very close group at this juncture with only 3 points separating 1st place from 4th. No team has scored more than 1 goal in any match. It certainly is enough to make some people grab the remote for other options, but this group will not be short on drama in the coming days.
Kenya v Nigeria – June 5th – Nairobi, Kenya
Kenya nabbed a crucial away point at group favorite Nigeria last time out. If it wasn’t for a 94th minute stunner, they would have turned group F upside down and left Calabar with 3 points. That would have been an incredible result considering two things: our rankings currently have Kenya 70 places below Nigeria, and only 5 road teams have won in the 60 second round CAF qualifiers. That’s an astonishing 8 percent! Surely anybody who is able to grab 3 on the road has a distinct advantage in qualifying. Nonetheless, this result will give Kenya enormous confidence heading into the return fixture.
Nigeria, on the other hand, appears to be reeling a little. After capturing the 2013 AFCON title in January, the Super Eagles have managed only 2 draws. A recent friendly with Mexico in Houston saw them severely outplayed by a ten man El Tri. After going into the break leading 2-1, Mexico ran circles around Nigeria. A neutral observer would have thought it was Nigeria playing with a man down. Also travelling across the Atlantic twice in a week for 2 matches separated by 9 time zones is a daunting task.
Prediction: Nigeria by 1
Malawi v Namibia – June 5th – Blantyre, Malawi
Speaking of road wins being tough to come by, Malawi is actually one of 5 teams to pull off the feat thus far. They took down Namibia by the narrowest of margins back in March and drew level with Nigeria for 1st place in the group. They have a tremendous opportunity in front of them. Two home qualifiers against the group’s bottom 2 teams and Nigeria’s form coming into question could result in a huge surprise in the coming weeks. A warm up draw with Zimbabwe should have given them ample preparation.
Namibia have fallen on hard times in terms of road form. After posting wins against Malawi and Djibouti in 2011, they’ve gone winless in their last 4. They are also winless in their last 6 matches overall. If they are going to progress, a win here is going to be vital. They recently played Zambia to a draw in Windhoek, so there must be some confidence building within the squad. Unfortunately, their campaign is going to look pretty bleak after this fixture.
Prediction: Malawi by 1
Guinea v Mozambique – June 9th – Conakry, Guinea
Guinea had tried to warm up for this match by scheduling a friendly with Congo DR in France. That friendly had to be scrapped, however, as the Congolese couldn’t secure visas to gain entry into France. That’s quite a shame as both teams could have used some preparation. Guinea is a team with a road win in CAF but also is one of the 8% to have a home loss on their books as well. That’s quite unfortunate because they now sit 5 points behind Egypt in the standings and may not have much of a chance. They have 2 home matches this month which could set up for a tremendous away match to Egypt in September, but they will need the Pharaohs to drop some points along the way.
Mozambique is going to need to turn things around in all phases if they are going to save their campaign. They are not only winless in their last 3 matches, but they are goalless as well. A 6,500 mile trip to Guinea doesn’t sound like the resolution to their problems. Their struggles will continue and they’ll face a long trip back to Maputo.
Prediction: Guinea by 2
Zimbabwe v Egypt – June 9th – Harare, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe face elimination in this match as they welcome the group leaders to their home turf. If they lose or draw, they’re out. The gap between them and Egypt will be too large to overcome in 2 matches. If they win, they close the gap to 5 points. While they’ll mathematically still be alive, much help will be required. Things are looking pretty dire for the Warriors right now. But you certainly never know what can happen. They only lost in Egypt 2-1 last time out!
Egypt must be excited to get this party started. A win in Harare combined with a Mozambique result of any kind will see them officially through to the third round. While it appears to be a sure thing at this point, it would make a statement throughout CAF to qualify in 4 matches.
Prediction: Egypt by 2
Mali v Rwanda – June 9th – Bamako, Mali
Mali have a great opportunity with this match. They can certainly beat Rwanda, as this is our biggest lock in groups F – J. They can also reduce Algeria’s goal differential lead. Mali have two home games, while Algeria have 2 away games. Mali can potentially set themselves up to only need a draw in September against Algeria to advance. Look for them to take full advantage.
Rwanda are minnows in the CAF scene. Their lone win in their last 6 came against lowly Eritrea. Rwanda are simply small fish in the big pond that is group H. To make matters worse, their current away form is LDLLD. That’s 2 points out of a possible 15. They’ve managed only 1 goal in those 5 matches with that goal coming against Chad! No chance for Rwanda here.
Prediction: Mali by 3 in a shut-out
Benin v Algeria – June 9th – Porto Novo, Benin
Huge match for Benin here. Already 2 points adrift and Mali virtually guaranteed a 3 spot, Benin can ill-afford to fall 5 back of 2 teams. If they can sneak a win, they’d leapfrog Algeria before travelling to Mali for another must win match. Form has been a severe issue for the Squirrels however. Only 1 win in the last 9 matches. To their credit, they’ve been relatively close matches; 5 of them have been draws. A killer instinct is needed in Porto Novo.
Algeria has been a tale of two sides. They’ve been a powerhouse at home, posting an impressive 9 wins with 1 loss in their last 10. When they leave the flare laced confines of Blida’s Stade Moustapha Tchaker, they turn into a different team. They’ve only managed 1 win in the last 5 away tests. It’s imperative they bring the fire to Benin or they face falling 3 points back of Mali with only 2 to play.
Libya v Congo DR – June 7th – Tripoli, Libya
Libya appear to be firing on all cylinders after a 3-0 thrashing of Uganda on June 1st. They currently sit 2nd in the group, but only trail leaders Cameroon by 1 point. Libya have been a tough nut for group I to crack. No nation has been able to solve the Libyans to date. If they replicate their performance against Uganda, Congo DR are going to be in for a long night.
Congo DR have been the Mexicans of the CAF region by posting 4 consecutive draws. Granted, 3 of them were in the AFCON finals. They haven’t tasted victory since downing Equatorial Guinea 4-0 in the 1st leg of the AFCON qualifiers. Streaks like this can be very detrimental to a team’s psyche. In the event they score first, they’re likely to sit back and wait for something bad to happen. And if they concede first, well, here we go again! Fans of Congo DR have to hope they can shake the recent dip in form.
Prediction: Libya by 1
Togo v Cameroon – June 9th – Lome, Togo
In what appears to be a common theme in African football, teams that found themselves in the AFCON finals have been unable to replicate that form in the World Cup qualifiers. Togo are no exception to that rule. They’re currently looking up at 3 teams in group I, with only 1 point to their name. It’s ‘win or go home’ for the Togolese. Fans of the Sparrow Hawks can only hope that Emmanuel Adebayor can spur them to victory.
Cameroon shockingly missed out on AFCON 2013 after they fell 3-2 on aggregate to Cape Verde Islands. The Indomitable Lions would then sulk through their next 4 fixtures, drawing the likes of Indonesia and losing to Tanzania. They appear to have recaptured the form that lead them to South Africa 2010. A 0-0 draw against Ukraine in Kiev could be just what the doctor ordered. There’s no room cowardly lions here.
|Congo DR||4||thru 4|
Last but not least is group J. This group has been the most competitive thus far. The first 3 matches have done little to separate the nations. Matchday 4 is going to make things worse.
Uganda v Liberia – June 8th – Kampala, Uganda
If warm up friendlies are any indication, Uganda might find themselves in a bit of trouble here. A 3-0 beat down in Libya could have damaged their spirit; a return to Kampala will brighten the mood. They’re currently winless in the group, but only sit 3 points back of leaders Senegal. A win would provide a much needed boost to the campaign. Home form certainly hasn’t been an issue. They are undefeated in their last 11, having only conceded twice!
Liberia are another team to have encountered visa difficulties while trying to warm up for qualifying. They were given the unenviable task of traveling to Baghdad, Iraq for a friendly in the most nerve wracking of conditions. As if that in itself wasn’t enough to swallow, they were initially denied entry into Iraq as there were some I’s left undotted and T’s left uncrossed in their paper work. No problem though. They’d go on defeat Iraq 1-0 anyway. Could be a sign of things to come, but Uganda should provide stiffer competition.
Prediction: Uganda by 1
Angola v Senegal – June 8th – Luanda, Angola
Angola are the only team in CAF qualifying to have 0 wins and 0 losses thru 3 games. While a model for consistency, they’ve left something to be desired to this point. A positive to take from those 3 draws is that 2 of them were on the road. They’ve arguably gotten the two most difficult away fixtures behind them and have points to show for it. If they string together a couple of wins at home, they could find themselves advancing to the 3rd round.
Senegal also remain undefeated in group J. Their lone win was a 3-1 defeat of Liberia back in June of 2012. Surprisingly, that result was their last win! Two subsequent draws to Uganda and Angola in qualifying have this group in the pressure cooker. A win in Luanda would tilt the scales in their favor, but this Senegal team is a shell of its former self.
Prediction: Angola by 1
I hope you have enjoyed previewing the CAF region as much as I have! I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on the motherland to see how our predictions have fared. Stay on the lookout for our matchday 5 preview after the dust settles on matchday 4.
Enjoy the games!