And then there were 10. The last week of Confederation of African Football 2022 World Cup qualifiers did not disappoint. As the ten groups finished play and determined who would progress to the final playoff round. there were so many potential talking points, and so much controversy. But we expected that right? Right?
The final day of the second round had four of the ten third-round spots up for grabs and it had plenty of fireworks.
Which CAF teams progressed?
- Congo DR
Senegal and Morocco went into the final round very comfortably. They qualified during the October break. They were eventually joined by Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Egypt, Ghana, and DR Congo this window.
Egypt narrowly qualified, a 2-2 draw against Angola saw them over the line. Shockingly, they've made it this far without Mo Salah scoring in qualifiers yet. Mali got through but needed help to do it. Uganda's draw with Kenya opened the door and they went on to beat Rwanda 3-0 to make it to the final round.
But, of course, there was controversy. DR Congo had a "penalty" that was called against Benin in a crucial match between the two group J leaders, which gave them the lead in the 10th minute. The match ended up 2-0 with DR Congo advancing. Then there was Ghana and South Africa which was not the most fun match but had its own dramatic penalty call that left South African fans upset.
As of Wednesday, South Africa had still not accepted the result, lodging a complaint with FIFA, and demanding a replay of the match. Ghana, should the 1-0 result stand, however, are the ones laughing all the way to the final round. It would be a sad ending for South Africa. They led the group heading into the final round of fixtures, and just needed not to lose.
For both Benin and South Africa those penalty decisions will loom large and those major talking points will ultimately be why, despite having amazing campaigns, both sides are out and will have to wait another 4 years.
Nigeria drew with Cape Verde to make it through. But despite qualifying for the third round fans are pessimistic about the chances of qualifying for World Cup 2022. They just looked boring and uninspiring. Sure they scored three goals and took four points from Liberia and Cape Verde, but two of those three goals were penalties, and after scoring in the first minute against Cape Verde, they spend 90 just barely hanging on and running out the clock. Tunisia got their place in the third round, running riot against Zambia winning 3-1, Algeria drew 2-2 against Burkina Faso, booking their place in the third round
In the final match, two traditional power houses went toe to toe. Cameroon beat Ivory Coast 1-0, winning the group and knocking out the talented Ivory Coast. It was a big match for Cameroonian goalkeeper Andre Onana who came up huge keeping a stcked Ivory Coast squad at bay.
What comes next in CAF
All 10 teams are put into two pots, based on their world rankings and then drawn together for a two-legged matchup. Winners go to Qatar, losers go home.
The chaos is just beginning though because the third round isn't due to be played until March 2022, after the African Cup of Nations in January. Some teams will be looking for revenge on top of trying to be one of the five teams to qualify for the World Cup from Africa.
Well, I can easily go out on a limb and tell you who I want to qualify for the World Cup but I have to remind you that I am indeed a professional, well sometimes. As long as Nigeria qualifies and chaos ensues, I'll be a very happy man.
So what do we do now? Catch your breath and stay patient for now. Once March 2022 rolls around, bring all the action, drama, goals, high and low lights.