Africa’s World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign started on Wednesday as the 28 bottom-ranked countries in Africa contested for a place in the Second Round. Here are the Winners and Losers. Bet on football here.
Ranked 195th in the world, Djibouti kicked off their 2022 World Cup qualifiers with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Eswatini at the El Hadj Hassan Gouled Stadium in Djibouti City. The victory over Eswatini was only their second in 12 years. Football fans in the Horn of Africa Nation are still jubilant over the rare win but understand the job is far from over. The second leg will be played next week on Tuesday in Mbabane with the winner on aggregate progressing to the next round. Can Djibouti do the impossible?
Thabo Senong and Lesotho
After only being named as coach of Lesotho last week, former South Africa under-20 coach Thabo Senong guided Likuena to a barren draw at a packed and vociferous Bahir Dar Stadium against Ethiopia. The hard-fought draw extended Likuena’s unbeaten run to three matches and are in prime position when they play the second leg. This was a decent start for Senong whose only experience is leading the South African Under-20 teams in the last two World Cups. With the experience gained from working with former Bafana Bafana coaches Stuart Baxter and Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba, Senong could take this team places.
South Sudan ended a run of seven consecutive defeats with a 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea in Omdurman, Sudan. Equatorial Guinea were headed for an important win until an unfortunate own goal by Niko Kata levelled matters. However, the South Sudanese will take this as motivation considering they were playing in neutral territory because their only major stadium, Juba Stadium, is being refurbished. The aim for Ashu Cyprian Besong’s men is to avoid defeat. This was a positive start, nonetheless.
Walia Antelopes’ two-game winning streak was halted by a determined Lesotho side who snatched a draw heading into the second leg. The hosts produced a decent performance but could not break down a resolute defence. This should be a problem for Abraham Mebratu bearing in mind they were playing at home. They have lost five of their last ten away matches in all competitions while Likuena beat South Africa at home in their last home match.
Burundi played in their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations competition in June and are looking to attempt to qualify for the big one, the 2022 World Cup. The Burundians welcomed east African rivals Tanzania at the Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura and the match did not disappoint. The match ended in a 1-1 draw but the Swallows are disappointed they could win on home soil. This also added to their poor home form where they’ve won just once. They’ll have to be very good in the return leg away from home or risk getting eliminated in the early stages.
Home Win bettors
Of the eight matches played on Wednesday, only two teams registered home wins. Liberia needed two penalties and a calamitous defensive error to beat Sierra Leone 3-1 in front of former Ballon d'Or winner and Liberian President George Weah. Djibouti registered their first win in two years. In the second leg, the six home teams that failed to register victory should be confident keeping in mind what happened on Wednesday.