Senegal are one of the two first country (Morocco being the other) to qualify for the final phase of the Africa zone World Cup qualifiers. A maiden international hat trick from Ferrana Diedhou propelled Aliou Cisse’s side to a 3-1 win over closest Group H rivals Namibia. Victory gives the 2002 World Cup quarterfinalists an unassailable twelve points, eight clear of Togo – who were surprise 2-1 winners over Congo’s Leopards in Brazzaville.
The Lions of Teranga are joined in the last ten by Morocco, who maintained their one hundred percent winning record in Group I with a 4-1 victory over Guinea Conakry. Like Senegal, the Atlas Lions, who first represented Africa at the Mexico 86 World Cup, command an eight point advantage over the chasing pack with only two matchdays to end group action.
Nine out of the ten qualifying groups are led by the top seeded sides with Group J which is led by Tanzania the only exception. Africa’s first ever World Cup representatives Democratic Republic of Congo, who featured at the 1974 event as Zaire, are the top seeds but trail the Taifa Stars by two points, having won only one of their opening four rubbers. The Simbas lost their latest fixture 0-1 away to Madagascar.
Record African champions Egypt are in pole position to top Group F after picking up all six available points in the North African derby with neighbours Libya. The Pharaohs followed up Friday’s 1-0 win over the Mediterranean Knights with a 3-0 whitewash in Benghazi to open up a four point advantage atop the standings. Third placed Gabon trail Egypt by six points despite subduing basement side Angola 2-0 in Libreville.
Algeria’s Desert Fenecs – famous for beating eventual losing finalists West Germany 2-1 at Espana 1982, lead Group A on goal difference from Burkina Faso after pummeling Niger 4-0 courtesy of goals from captain Riyad Mahrez, Ismail Bennacer and Baghdad Bounedjah. Africa’s third ranked team are unbeaten in their last thirty two matches.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles have their fate back in their hands after avenging a surprise 0-1 setback at home to Central African Republic by taming the hosts 2-0 on their own turf thanks to goals from Napoli livewire Victor Osimhen and Glasgow Rangers defender Leon Balogun. The 1996 Olympic Games football gold medalists lead Group C with nine points, two ahead of Cape Verde.
The group of death remains delicately poised with a solitary point separating leaders Ivory Coast from 1990 World Cup quarterfinalists Cameroon. The Indomitable Lions collected maximum points from their double header with Mozambique, winning 3-1 in Yaounde and 1-0 in Maputo but they were matched by the Elephants who proved too slick for Malawi courtesy of goals from Nicolas Pepe and Frank Kessie.