The much anticipated FIFA qualifiers are finally here. Soccer enthusiasts on the continent will have the opportunity between the 25th and 29th of this month to watch five national teams qualify for the much-coveted tournament in Qatar at the end of this year. Africanews also had an exclusive with the former Egyptian defender Wael Gomaa on the upcoming match against Senegal.
Ten matches that include both home and away will be played between the two dates, with some deemed as revenge missions following a fallout by some of the teams during the February AFCON competition.
African champions Senegal are eyeing third participation in World Cup after 2002 and 2018.
They will be led by Liverpool winger Sadio Mane and the balance will be extended by their meticulous keeper Edouard Mendy who also plays for Chelsea. They will meet the Pharaohs, led by Mohamed Salah in what some have called a revenge mission for the Egyptians following their loss during the February AFCON final against Senegal.
Africanews spoke to Wael Goma, who is the former Egyptian star and also one of the best African defenders ever.
He said that " I am grateful for our team and looking into the previous African Cup of Nations competition they really tried to play 4 games within 12 days. They met tough opponents like the Ivory Coast Morocco, Cameroon and Senegal. So it was quite difficult for them. We hope that they will do their best in the forthcoming game against Senegal."
He further advised, "I wish they play with the same spirit, the same fighting. It’s not a matter of who is playing and the formation you’re playing. For me, if they play with the same spirit, then they can win the game. I think with the support of the fans in the Cairo stadium in the first game, our chances will be high and I know we can do it."
Qatar became the first Middle East country to host the much-coveted FIFA World Cup. They are also the first among the Arab-speaking countries. Preparations are complete as various teams are trying to book spots in the upcoming world tournament.
"It’s a pleasure for us, as Arab citizens and country to organize this Qatar 2022 World Cup tournament. It is a pleasure for us all to have this tournament on our land. It’s a pleasure for us Arab citizens, as I said, to have all these facilities here in Qatar, all these stadiums, all these fantastic fields for a player to enjoy and for a fan to enjoy the atmosphere of the World Cup," said Gomaa.
In other matches, the Leopards of Congo will meet Morocco's Atlas Lions on 26th and 29th with the first match scheduled at the Martyrs Stadium in Kinshasa. The second leg will be staged 3 days later at the Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca.
Zaire had an idea of the World Cup in 1974, and as DR Congo 48 years later, the Leopards are looking for a return.
Morocco, who has participated in the world tournament five times, is hoping for a return to the world stage.
The Atlas Lions had an undefeated streak of more than 30 games under Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic before they were eliminated by Egypt during the last AFCON.
Also in the running are Cameroon, who is the African nation holding the record for participation in the World Cup with seven appearances. They will be up against Algeria.
Cameroons will enjoy the services of its new coach Rigobert Song, former star defender of the "Indomitable Lions", who replaced Portuguese coach, António Conceição
Algeria will be led by Riyad Karim Mahrez, who is Manchester City winger and national captain of the Desert Warriors.
Algeria will be seeking to erase memories of their early elimination from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
A desert derby will pit Mali against Tunisia in what seems to be a well-levelled clash. host the first leg of its playoff tie against Tunisia at home in Bamako.
The return leg will be played in Tunis four days later with the aggregate winner qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar.
Nigeria, with its six appearances at the FIFA World Cup, will be seeking to extend their records.
They will be meeting mighty Ghana’s Black Stars. Some have termed it as the fight for the Jollof rice. The question remains who will emerge as the best cooks.
The Black Stars will be led by Andre Ayew and many are hoping to Ghana will make it for the fourth appearance at the FIFA World Cup.