By Zelifac Asong
Brazil 2014 is already around the corner. That is the FIFA world football jamboree organized every four years. After Africa’s first ever participation as host, it is once again Brazil’s turn to host the prestigious tourney for the continent of South America.
Eliminatory rounds have already begun in all the regional confederations. The CAF region is not left out. The CAF region is now playing the group phase of its eliminatories, after the knock out rounds played last November.
Forty African teams are taking part at this level. These teams have been divided into ten groups, (A-J), consisting of four teams each. These forty teams are competing for five spots allocated to Africa in football world’s greatest competition. Already two playing days have gone by. The first playing day went from the first of June two thousand and twelve (6, 1, 2012) to the third of June two thousand and twelve (6, 3, 2012). The second day of play went from the ninth of June two thousand and twelve (6, 9, 2012) to the tenth of June two thousand and twelve (6, 10, 2012).
Though it is too early pick favorites, it is safe to say some teams have already made some very good results which give them an early advantage for the rest of the competition. Some players as well have also made good strides in the competition for number goals scored.
In group G, Egypt has taken a decisive advantage in its group which includes Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Guinea. The seven time African champion has positioned itself already as the team to beaten in the group. Already the pharaohs count six(6) points in two games making them the uncontested leaders in the group. Led by offensive duo, Aboutrika (2 goals), and Zidan (1 goal) they are already showing how determined they are to take part in this world cup.
Four time world cup participant, Tunisia has also taken the lead in group B. Edging out Sierra Leone which is second position with four points. The Eagles of Carthage have proven to prolific on the offensive, scoring five goals in two games .Jemaa, the lead scorer netting one for each game. The Tunisians seem set to walk over their rivals which include Equatorial Guinea and the Cape Verde Island.
Recent African champions, Zambia are placed together with Ghana, Sudan, and Lesotho. Sudan leads the group with four points. They will find worthy contenders in the black stars of Ghana, whom on the first day of qualifiers gave inexperienced Lesotho a lashing (7-0). With the same number of points (3), as the as the Ghanaians , the Chipolopolo of Zambia are equally to watched in this group. They are young and eager. Coming off great African Nations Cup, which they won, their morale should be very good for the rest of the eliminatories.
Group A is led by Ethiopia with four points. This puts them ahead of the Central African Republic. South Africa is third, and Botswana cushions the group in the fourth and last position. Certainly the fight in this group will be between South Africa and Ethiopia.
The elephants of Cote D’ivoire sit comfortably at the top of group C with four points. Led by Drogba, the Ivorians are determined to appear in their second only World cup before this generation of very talented players quit the stage. Tanzania trail them in second position. Sitting in third place with 2 points, the Atlas Lions of Morocco is mostly likely the team that will give “Les Elephants” a run for their money. Gambia is placed last.
In group E, we have the Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon, Burkina Faso and Niger. The Congolese lead the group with four points. They are followed by the Gabonese with equal number points. Burkina Faso and Niger are third and fourth place respectively with a point each.
With four points after the second day of play, the super eagles of Nigeria top group F with four points. Coming a close second are the Namibians, with three points, followed by Malawi with two points after two draws. At the bottom of the group lie the Harambee stars of Kenya, with a single point won. This might just be an interesting group to watch, as there seems not to be large difference in quality between the top three teams.
Group H is made up of Benin, Algeria, Mali and Rwanda. The squirrels of Benin top the group with four points. ‘les fennecs’ of Algeria and the Eagles of Mali occupy the second and third places respectively. The Wasps of Rwanda are seated at the fourth and last position. The battle in group H will most likely be between the Malian Eagles and desert foxes from Algeria. However, the Beninese might just spring a surprise if the others sleep on their laurels.
Group I is being led after two days of play by Libya, with four points. Coming second and third respectively are the Simba of the DR Congo, and the indomitable lions of Cameroon. At last position is Togo. Six time world cup participant and four time African champion Cameroon do not seem to have solved the internal issues that have been plaguing the team now for many years. Though observers believe that they dominated the game against Libya during the second day of play, the lions were not able to conserve a draw, as the let in a goal in the last minutes of the game. The absence of captain, and goal getter Eto’o, seems to be having a negative effect on a young Cameroonian team which might just need experience. Then again the lions are never out until they really are. The DR Congo are having issues of their own, with some European based players, among whom are star player Lomana Lua Lua, refusing to go on camp in the country. They cite issues of insecurity.
Finally there is group J, made up of Senegal, Uganda, Angola and Liberia. The Teranga lions lead the group with four points. They are followed by Uganda and Angola with two points each. Liberia comes last with a point to their credit.
Some of the players who have stood out after these two days are Mohamed Aboutrika, Isaam Jemaa, Salomon Kalou and Choupo Moting. The veteran Egyptian forward showed that at age thirty-three, he has still got what it takes. Against Guinea on the second day, he scored two of the Pharaohs’ three goals as the won to make it two victories for on two matches. If his partnership with Zidan remains what it has been in the past, then Egypt are sure to qualify for Brazil 2014.
The Tunisian Isaam Jemma is also proving to be the force in the offensive play of the Eagles of Carthage. The Brest based striker netted in one in each of Tunisia’s matches. Defenders are warned. Cote d’ivoire’s English based player Salomon kalou equally two goals. In each against Tanzania and Morocco.
In the absence of star striker, and world’s highest paid player, Samuel Eto’o, who is out on suspension until august of 2012, a new generation of indomitable lions seem to be slowly assuming the responsibilities at the helm of the team. German born Cameroonian striker is proving to be player that will lead the lions attack in the years to come. The Mainz 05 forward has already netted in two for Cameroon. The lone goal in Cameroon’s match against the DR Congo, and Cameroon’s only goal as they lost two goals to one against the Libyan national squad.
It must be emphasized that these are the second round of qualifiers for the African region. The first round was played in November 2011. It pitted the 24 lowest ranked African teams playing knock out matches in a home and away format. The twelve teams which qualified joined the other 28 teams in the second round which will be played from the month of June 2012 to the month of September 2013.
At the end of second round, the first team in each group will qualify for the third round. This will round from the month of October to the month of November 2013. The first ten teams will play a 5 legged knock out round and the five winners will represent the African continent at the Mondiale in Brazil.
The next day of play for these ongoing qualifiers will be on the 22nd of march 2013.