- Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria carry wins from the first leg
- Nigeria have been allowed to have 60,000 fans against Ghana
- Morocco are under pressure to deliver at home
Stakes are high as Africa looks to wrap up the list of the five representatives who will represent the continent at the World Cup in Qatar in November, with the second leg of the play-off round matches going down on Tuesday night.
All matches are evenly poised with Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia holding slight 1-0 advantages picked up from first leg matches last Tuesday.
Senegal v Egypt
The Egyptians picked a slender 1-0 win over the reigning African champions in Cairo last week, an own goal from Papiss Ciss being the difference in the fourth minute of the match.
Heading into the return tie at the newly constructed Diamniadio Olympic Stadium in the outskirts of Dakar, there will be all to play for in the tie, Egypt needing only a draw to proceed while Senegal are looking for a win of more than two goals to earn a ticket.
Senegal head coach Aliou Cisse remains upbeat that his side has what it takes to overturn the deficit and has called on fans to turn up in large numbers and boost the team’s morale to vie for a place in Qatar.
“We must keep all our serenity and calm for the return match. The 1-0 defeat did not reflect the state of play and this must allow us to be confident for the qualification to the World Cup. We have to stay calm and work to improve our efficiency, that’s what was missing in the first leg,” the tactician stated.
Senegal largely dominated Egypt in Cairo, but were only unlucky not to score.
Meanwhile, Egypt will be looking to defend their slim advantage, with coach Carlos Queiroz confident his charges, led by the mercurial Mo Salah will deliver them to the promised land.
“We deservedly won the first leg against the best team in Africa and now we are going to Senegal to fight for every metre, every loose ball. Every Egyptian must double his efforts,” said the Portuguese tactician, former head coach of Real Madrid.
The Egyptians will be without defender Mohamed Abdelmonem who was stretchered off in the first leg with injury and will require surgery.
Nigeria v Ghana
The two teams play in Abuja on Tuesday night with a balanced 0-0 result from the first leg played in Accra last Thursday. The highly billed West African derby is expected to be more explosive, with both teams having a chance to progress.
However, Ghana will fancy their chances more as any scoring draw will reserve them a seat on the plane to Qatar.
Coach Otoo Addo remains ever so confident that his side can topple Nigeria, despite the Super Eagles having more pedigree than his young team.
“The pressure if off us and on them. It was crucial that we did not conceded at home and any score draw in the return match takes us through,” said Addo, who also doubles up as the Borussia Dortmund assistant coach.
He adds; “Our players recovered superbly from a terrible Cup of Nations campaign in January, matched Nigeria throughout the 90 minutes and created more scoring chances.”
Nigeria’s chances will be heavily pushed on by a huge 60,000 capacity crowd at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja.
Star striker, Victor Osimhen who has been on form for his club Napoli SC in Italy will be relied on for the goals and the forward has promised to deliver the goods as he looks to play in his first ever World Cup.
“At the last FIFA World Cup, Russia 2018, I was in the hospital, supporting the Super Eagles. I have always been a fan of the Super Eagles, having an opportunity to be here, we have one more hurdle. I am looking forward to the game as well as getting the World Cup ticket,” Osimhen stated.
Algeria v Cameroon
Cameroon should expect a hostile environment in Blida when they take on Les Fennecs, carrying with them a 1-0 deficit from the first leg played in Douala last Thursday.
The former African champions regrouped to put up a determined performance in Douala, especially with the backdrop of their horrible AFCON title defense in Cameroon in January.
Playing at home, and with a slim advantage, they already have an upper hand over the Cameroonians, under the tutelage of former captain Rigobert Song.
They know the task at hand is huge, but skipper Vincent Aboubakar believes they can outdo the Algerians at their own backyard. Aboubakar was a doubt for the return tie in Blida, but Song says the skipper will be available to lead the line.
“Our performance was not bad. We did what had to be done. We remain confident, we need to get a result in the return game. we will try to qualify in Blida,” Song said.
Algeria’s Djabel Belmadi on the other hand is expecting the soldout stadium at home to rev them up and push their side to a ticket into Cameroon.
Tunisia v Mali
The Malians travel up North with confidence from the first leg, where they lost 1-0 at home. Despite playing majority of the match with 10 men and only conceding off a bizarre own goal, Mali pushed Tunisia into their own half for most of the game.
Despite the fact that winning in North Africa is always a massive ask, Mali are confident they can topple Tunisia and stake a claim at a place in Qatar.
The Eagles of Mali will be boosted with the availability of skipper Hamari Traore who missed the first leg due to suspension. His return will be a massive boost for the team and he has promised they will fight tooth and nail to earn a place in Qatar.
“We are disappointed with the result but it’s only the first leg. The players got their jerseys wet, we weren’t able to take advantage of our opportunities. We have the means and the will to do it, to succeed in this historic qualification,” said the skipper.
Tunisia on their end will progress with any kind of draw while at worst, a 2-1 defeat will still sail them through. Mali on the other hand need to win by more than two goals.
Morocco v DR Congo
Playing at the Mohamed v Stadium in Casablanca, where fans will watch the national team for the first time in almost two years, is always a massive ask for any visiting team.
It is on this fact that home side Morocco will look to take advantage as they face off with DR Congo with whom they drew 1-1 in the first leg in Kinshasa.
Morocco were not at their best and their performance left a lot to be desired, and were only lucky that the Congolese were wasteful infront of goal.
Playing at home, they will be under pressure to deliver, but coach Vahid Halilhodžić is confident they can sustain and win. The tactician is under pressure specifically for his public differences with Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech who said he will not honor national team call ups as long as Halilhodžić is at the helm.
The decision has not been popular with the public and if they lose to Congo, then the public will find a perfect noose to hang the Bosnian tactician on.