The campaign to select Africa’s five representatives at the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Qatar has begun in earnest for Africa.
Last week, the first leg of the first round qualifying matches kicked off and some teams placed themselves in an advantage to progress into the next round.
The first round involves the lowest ranking teams on the continent according to the July edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
Vying to progress to the second round, 28 teams were drawn in the first round and are competing on home and away basis with the eventual 14 winners advancing.
Already their participation in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) seem to have helped the participants as most secured an advantage from the first leg results.
The 14 winners from this preliminary round, will join the top-ranked 26 sides on the African continent, and these 40 teams will be split into ten groups with four teams each during the second qualifying round.
Togo 1, Comoros 1
The Hawks of Togo host the second leg in Lome, desperate to advance after what has been a disappointing showing in qualifying campaigns in recent times.
Despite boosting of some quality players, the Togolese have struggled to get the desired results and missed out on the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
With a chance to compete against the big boys in African football in this qualifying campaign, the Hawks will hope to build upon the modest 1-1 result from the first leg to edge out the Comoros Island.
Incidentally, these two teams have also been paired in the first round of the 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Angola 1, Gambia 0
Angola host the second leg confident of victory after earning a crucial 1-0 win in the first leg away in Bakau.
The Angolans were eliminated at the group stage in Egypt 2019, but there is no doubt that they benefited from that competition as they dominated the Gambians even at their own backyard.
With home advantage their teeming fans to support, the Angolans look the favourites.
Nambia 2, Eriteria 1
Namibia also took advantage of the experience gained at AFCON 2019 to grab a 2-1 advantage against Eriteria .
Without the advantage of having played in the tournament in Egypt, Nambia look the better side and are the favourites to win the second leg of this tie which they host.
Zimbabwe 0, Somalia 1
Somalia pulled the surprise of this round as they stunned Zimbabwe 1-0 in the first leg they hosted home away from home in Djibouti.
Somalia do not have much credentials when it comes to football and considering that the performance of the Brave Warriors at Egypt 2019, a defeat was the last result expected.
Now the Zimbabweans who seem to be going through some challenges so far as their Football Association is concerned, must now fight to recover with a good result if they are to advance.
Rwanda 3, Seychelles 0
Rwanda took a giant step into the second leg and possibly into the second round with an emphatic 3-0 away win against Seychelles.
A simple draw in this game will be enough to see the Rwandans through. However, playing infront of their teeming fans in the second leg, there is no doubt that they will go for more goals to thrill their supporters and also show their readiness for the battle ahead.
This is the first time the two sides are facing off in an official match.
Guinea Bissau 1, Sao Tome 0
Guinea Bissau lead from the first in their tie against another Lusophone country.
A 1-0 result from the first leg in Sao Tome put Guinea Bissau in the lead and they will like to maintain their momentum after qualifying for the AFCON this year as they seek to build on their steady progress in African football.
(first round results in brackets)
Mozambique v Mauritius (1-0)
Sudan v Chad (3-0)
Etswani v Djibouti (1-2)
Malawi v Botswana (0-0)
Burundi v Tanzania
On Sunday, Burundi edged out Tanzania in a very keenly contest two-leg match which recorded a 1-1 drawn in both legs and the Burundians prevailing 3-0 on penalties.
The victory handed Burundi their sixth win against Tanzania, to improve their record, though they still trail with 11 losses and two draws in their previous clashes.
Considering that they are not considered among the powerhouses of African football, both sides impressed at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) staged in Egypt and that again reflected in their World Cup qualifier.
On Tuesday, the remaining fixtures in this round will be honoured as the teams who won or gained the advantage seeking to consolidate their positions, while those who slipped will possibly try to make amends.