The line-up for the group stage of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers was confirmed on Tuesday following the completion of the preliminary round with 14 teams qualifying to join the top 26 ranked teams for the teams.
The biggest winners of the round were Djibouti, making their first-ever appearance in the group phase of qualification. The Shoremen of the Red Sea thumped sweet revenge on Eswatini beating them 2-1 on aggregate to progress.
Djibouti had suffered an embarrassing 8-1 loss to eSwatini at the same stage for the 2018 World Cup qualification, losing 6-0 in Mbabane and 2 -1 in Djibouti city. However, they were more determined this time around, winning 2-1 at home and forcing a 0-0 draw away.
When he took over the job, coach Julien Mette said his mission was barely to ensure that Djibouti ‘lost with dignity’. And now, he has gone a step further.
Djibouti are ecstatic about their rare feat
"There is no word that can explain my joy but it was not for me nor the players but for the national flag. We can’t wait to go home and celebrate with the nation. Well done to the players for the role they played in this tie," an ecstatic Metts said after his side secured victory.
Guinea-Bissau, Namibia and Sudan all booked their places on home soil. Guinea Bissau came from behind to beat Sao Tome and Principe 2-1 at home in Bissau to progress 3-1 on aggregate. Aderito Pires da Mata alias Iniesta gave Sao Tome an 11th minute lead to even the tie 1-1 on aggregate and hand them a clean chance of progressing. However, Joseph Mendes scored a brace in 11 second half minutes to turn the tie over in favour of the hosts.
Namibia also sailed through to the group phase with a 4-1 aggregate win over Eritrea, while Sudan punched out Chad 3-1 on aggregate despite a 0-0 second leg draw in Omdurman.
Elsewhere, Somalia were only two minutes away from a historic berth in the group stages after stretching Zimbabwe to the end, but Khama Billiat struck in the 92nd minute to break their hearts. The Ocean Stars won their first-ever qualifier in 37 years with a 1-0 victory at ‘home’ in Djibouti.
In the return tie in Harare, Omar Abdullahi Mohammed’s equaliser gave Somalia massive hope at 1-1 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate, but Zimbabwe, the highest-ranked team in the preliminary round edged through with two late goals.
Meanwhile, Togo and Angola, two of Africa’s five representatives at the 2006 World Cup in Germany also sailed through. Both sides’ dip in ranking saw them start off from the preliminary round this time.
Togo earned a 3-1 aggregate win over Comoros. A 1-1 draw in Moroni started them off before they completed the job at home with a 2-0 win.
Angola replicated the same result against Gambia’s Scorpions, but they won both home and away ties. The Palancas Negras won 1-0 away in Banjul before securing a 2-1 victory in Luanda via a 71st minute winner.
Rwanda edged out Seychelles on a 10-0 aggregate
Rwanda meanwhile picked the highest aggregate win in the round and also the highest in their history in World Cup qualification with a 10-0 aggregate thrashing of Seychelles having beaten them 7-0 on the night in Kigali.
The Mambas of Mozambique celebrating their qualification
Mozambique’s Mambas also progressed with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Mauritius while Ethiopia progressed on the away goal rule after a 1-1 away draw with Lesotho. Earlier on, the evergreen Juma Kaseja’s penalty heroics were all Tanzania needed to knock out Burundi 3-0 on post-match kicks after a 2-2 aggregate draw.
08.09.2019 Maseru: Lesotho 1-1 Ethiopia (0-0)
08.09.2019 Dar es Salaam: Tanzania 1-1 (3-0 pen) Burundi (1-1)
08.09.2019 Freetown: Sierra Leone 1-0 Liberia (1-3)
08.09.2019 Malabo: Equatorial Guinea 1-0 South Sudan (1-1)
10.09.2019 Blantyre: Malawi 1-0 Botswana (0-0)
10.09.2019 Harare: Zimbabwe 3-1 Somalia (0-1)
10.09.2019 Maputo: Mozambique 2-0 Mauritius (1-0)
10.09.2019 Bissau: Guinea Bissau 2-1 Sao Tome (1-0)
10.09.2019 Windhoek: Namibia 2-0 Eritrea (2-1)
10.09.2019 Manzini: Eswatini 0-0 Djibouti (1-2)
10.09.2019 Luanda: Angola 2-1 Gambia (1-0)
10.09.2019 Lome: Togo 2-0 Comoros (1-1)
10.09.2019 Omdurman: Sudan 0-0 Chad (3-1)
10.09.2019 Kigali Rwanda 7-0 Seychelles (3-0)
*Teams in italics through to the next round