The CAN 2021 playoffs start Wednesday, November 13th. Seven teams, who have never played in the finals, hope to have the same destiny as Mauritania, Madagascar or Burundi who had the happiness to qualify in 2019. Who could be the lucky ones elected in a year?
A playing card
If there was one piece to put on a single team among the seven, it would certainly be on the Central African Republic, the best placed team in the last Fifa rankings (112th). The Fauves led by their captain Geoffrey Kondogbia have not gone far from a qualification in the final playoffs. They could even have been on the trip in 2017, with a second place behind the DRC, if the CAN had gone to 24. In 2019, they were not ridiculous in a pool that they shared with the Côte d ' Ivory Serey Dié and Guinea Naby Keita. In these playoffs, if Morocco seems to come off their hen, Mauritania and Burundi do not constitute insurmountable obstacles for the Fauves.
The Comoros have also hoped for a qualification in the final qualifying by defeating home Cameroon (1-1) and Morocco (2-2). It will be necessary to confirm the progress in a group where there is Egypt, Kenya, and Togo. The latter has just eliminated the Coelacanths in the preliminary round of the World 2022 (1-1, 2-0). The first meeting in Lomé is already decisive ....
On a "misunderstanding" ...
They leave with the rank of outsider, but have good reasons to believe. The Gambia has shown some good things in the last play-offs, which defeated Algeria in the next round (1-1), the future champion of Africa. This time, the Scorpions, who beat Morocco in a friendly in June, will have to separate two teams between Congo DR, Angola and Gabon. " I am suspicious of Gambia, they can surprise, " said RFI Patrice Neveu the coach of the Panthers.
Like the Gambia, Chad gives the image of a team that is advancing at great speed under the impetus of its fast forward Casimir Ninga. Led by the Frenchman Emmanuel Tregoat, the Sao, who released Liberia in the preliminary round, can bet on a misstep of Mali or Guinea, able to exit the road in the playoffs. " We will try to take points from the first match in Namibia, " says coach Emmanuel Tregoat.
If the CAN had been 24 in 2017, Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, would have experienced its first final phase. The king's shield (nickname of the national team) had indeed finished second in Pool L, dominated by Zimbabwe, in front of Guinea he had beaten on the way home and back. This time in a pool of untouchable Senegal, Congo-Brazaville, and Guinea Bissau, the task is expected to be complicated, but not impossible.
A mountain to climb
A utopia ? To qualify for its first African Cup, Lesotho will have to do the impossible in Pool L against Nigeria (third in 2019), Benin (quarter-finalists in 2019) and, to a lesser extent, Sierra Leone . For a team that beat only Seychelles and Tanzania in the last three qualifiers, qualifying would be a miracle.
For Sao Tome and Principe too, the mountain seems immense. The green and yellow have already managed the feat of being present in these qualifying by dismissing Mauritius in preliminary, out of a pool composed of Ghana, South Africa and Sudan would be the effect of an earthquake…
Does South Sudan have more arguments? Created after the partition of Sudan in 2011, South Sudan is one of the youngest selections in world football. Defeated six times in six days in the final playoffs, the 162nd country in the last FIFA rankings will have a hard time living in a group B home to Burkina Faso (not in 2019), Uganda and Malawi.
CAN 2021: schedule, results, standings