JOHANNESBURG – AFP
The record seven-time African champion faces surprise Group F leaders Libya at home and away and need at least four points to grab first place before the final two rounds in November .
Only the 10 group winners advance to the final qualifying round and Egypt and the other seeds, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco and the Democratic Republic of Congo have some catching up to do. Here, AFP Sport is examining the situation in each group with 41 qualifying matches scheduled for the second, three and four days from today.
Reigning African champion Algeria captain Riyad Mahrez have an impressive home record against Niger in the World Cup qualifiers, scoring 10 unanswered goals in two matches.
Another convincing home win is in sight for a side with an African record 29 games unbeaten, but second-placed Burkina Faso are expected to stay tied on points with Algeria by beating Djibouti.
Top Tunisians have won the previous four World Cup qualifiers
against Mauritania and there is no indication that they will not extend this perfect record in Radès.
A Tunisian team led by Saint-Etienne Wahbi Khazri and coached by Mondher Kebaier entered the match boosted by two impressive victories while the Mauritanians disappointed by losing twice.
It’s hard to imagine any result in Lagos other than a comfortable victory for the Nigerian leaders over the Central African Republic, which will miss out on unavailable Atletico Madrid midfielder Godfrey Kondogbia.
After a routine home win over Liberia last month, a severely weakened Super Eagles side have triumphed in Cape Verde and they will be back almost full for the visit of the Wild Beasts.
Considered the most difficult section to win, rivals Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire have qualified for the World Cup 10 times. The Ivorians hold a point lead thanks to a 2-1 home victory over the Cameroonians, but the poor condition of the pitch at the recently opened national stadium in Abidjan means they have to host Malawi in Benin.
Mali got off to a good start in the only section that did not contain a previous World Cup qualifier, building a two-point advantage over Kenya and Uganda with Rwanda last.
A Malian side including Southampton midfielder Moussa Djenepo are handicapped from having to play home matches in Morocco due to the poor condition of their stadiums, but they are favored to beat Kenya.
Libya stole a march on Egypt by claiming a late home victory over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon and then winning in Angola.
After shading Angola, Egypt were lucky enough to hold Gabon and the draw cost coach Hossam el Badry his post with ex-Real Madrid coach and Manchester United assistant coach Carlos Queiroz.
The Pacesetters of South Africa face Team Bogey Ethiopia, who took four points from them in the 2014 qualifiers, leading to the dismissal of Bafana Bafana (The Boys) coaches Pitso Mosimane and Gordon Igesund.
Ghana and Zimbabwe will have new coaches for back-to-back meetings with Serbian Milovan Rajevac replacing Charles Akonnor with the Black Stars and Norman Mapeza succeeding Croatian Zdravko Logarusic with the Warriors.
Sadio Mane’s Senegal could seal the top spot with two wins over their closest rivals Namibia, another country affected by stadium standards and forced to host matches in neighboring South Africa.
The biggest threat to the Senegalese will likely come from Peter Shalulile, a regular goalscorer for Mamelodi Sundowns, the dominant club in South Africa.
Morocco, whose first-choice squad includes Sevilla star striker Youssef en-Nesyri, will play “away” matches against Guinea-Bissau and Guinea at home, giving them a
The leaders of Guinea-Bissau do not have a stadium of international standards while FIFA currently considers Guinea a dangerous destination.
Tanzania were seeded fourth but lead Benin in goals scored, while section favorites DR Congo third and without a win.
The first two meet in Dar es Salaam and Cotonou.