The World would be painted with FIFA colours once again as countries within the various continents seek to battle it out for places in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In Africa, there are mouth watering and titanic clashes from North to South and from East to West.
Neigbours Nigeria and Camroon are billed to be the topmost liner as they renew their football rivalries in the group of death.
Having both made perfect starts after two games, Tunisia and Congo DR meet in Rades for the first installment of a crucial double-header. This match, and the return encounter in Kinshasa four days later, could play a key role in deciding who travels to Russia – not that rival duo Guinea and Libya have given up hope. The section stragglers will lock horns desperate to keep themselves in the hunt with a first win, or at least avoid a defeat that would surely leave them plotting a better outcome ahead of Qatar 2022.
The Super Green Eagles of Nigeria are set to affirm their position to qualify for the FIFA Mundial but has a big standing block to overcome in the shape of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. The red, yellow and green men of Camroon enter Abuja as the current African Cup of Nations Champions.
The Super Eagles can now bolster their advantage at home to their closest pursuers, knowing victory would ease the pressure for their trip to face the Indomitable Lions a few days later. The pressure on Algeria is mounting, in contrast, and they can ill afford any further slips if they hope to reach a third consecutive World Cup – starting away to Zambia.
Former African Champions Ivory Coast will have a tough task dealing with Aubameyang’s Gabon in the double header. They are the only team with a win in the fairly balanced group. The former Belgium coach who now handles the Elephants of Ivory Coast has bemoaned the effects of the summer transfer window in Europe as it has affected his ability to assemble his best players.
Morocco and Mali will also battle it out in the other match.Morocco have struggled for many years to find a striker who can burden the responsibility of leading their attack, and in youngster Walid Azaro they have a player who could be a star of the future. The 21-year-old Al Ahly forward will be eager to establish himself in the Atlas Lions side, but he faces a tough opponent in the shape of Mahamadou N’Diaye, an experienced center-back who has been to three Africa Cup of Nations with the Eagles and is regarded as one of their current generation’s best defenders.
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane would lead his country’s attack to repair the broken heart he suffered at the last AFCON as the Terenga Lions of Senegal encounter Burkina Faso, who have quietly risen to the summit thanks to a better goal difference than Bafana Bafana Senegal lie third on the log with 3 points and just a point adrift of Senegal and South Africa, so with all the current players who are playing so well in Europe, they would be expected to give Burkina led by Jonathan Pitropa a tough time.
Elsewhere in Cape Verde, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana are expected to get the results against the Cape Verdians as they seek to qualify for the World Cup for the first time after last featuring in 2010 as host. Coach Stuart Baxter would have another opportunity to rewrite history in his favour as he was beaten to the qualification spot in 2005 by Ghana for the Germany 2006 World Cup then as coach of the Bafana Bafana.Ahead of the highly anticipated clash against Cape Verde this Friday, South African Sports Minister, Thulas Nxesi has accompanied Bafana Bafana to Praia.
Continental heavyweights Egypt have grown weary of missing out on the World Cup since 1990, but that spell on the sidelines could be about to end. With Argentinian coach Hector Cuper at the reins, the Pharaohs can take another big step back towards the promised land with a win away to nearest rivals Uganda, though not everyone hopes they prevail.
With just a point from two games, Ghana Black Stars are another giant threathened by missing out of the World Cup for the first time after featuring in the last three editions. Coach Kwasi Appiah would have to dig deep to reinstate the Black Stars in a pole position but would have to find the antidote to deal with stubborn Congo in the double header. He is hopeful that things can turn as football offers unforeseen opportunities at times like this as the Kumasi fans would make their Baba Yara Stadium another fortress for visiting African teams. Captain Asamoah Gyan is also expected to rise up as he seeks to increase his enviable record of 50 goals for his country.