Monday, April 04, 2022

World Cup qualifiers draw to a close

 

A week of exciting qualifiers preceded the 2022 World Cup draw in Qatar. North Macedonia shocked the world of football by knocking European champions Italy out of contention with a last-gasp 1-0 win in Palermo while in Africa, having lost 1-0 at home to Algeria, Cameroon scored a stoppage-time goal in extra time in the away match to stun Algeria and qualify for the World cup. Tunisia were also among the qualifiers with a single goal in their first play-off match away to Mali. In an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier Chad drew 2-2 with Gambia in Morocco. The Oceania groups were played out in Qatar where Solomon Islands defeated Cook Islands 2-0 before the withdrawal of Cook Islands and Vanuatu due to covid, leaving only Tahiti to progress with them to the next round. In group B New Caledonia lost 2-1 and 1-0 to Fiji and Papua New Guinea respectively with Papua New Guinea joining New Zealand in the semi-final round after a 2-1 win over Fiji. As expected, New Zealand won the right to represent Oceania in the play-offs with Costa Rica who defeated their Canadian guests 1-0 in a group match. The Canadians also lost 1-0 in Panama but had already qualified for the finals. The Panamanian win did little to erase the memory of their disappointing 1-1 home draw against bottom side Honduras. In the Asian section Kaoru Mitoma scored a last-minute brace to take Japan to the World Cup with a 2-0 victory in Australia, though the Japanese could only draw 1-1 with Vietnam on their return home. The United Arab Emirates earned themselves a play-off spot with a 1-0 home win over South Korea while Syria upset their Lebanese hosts 3-0 and inn South America Ecuador qualified despite losing 3-1 in Paraguay. The World Cup draw was made with 3 spots still up for grabs.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Senegal win top spot in Africa

 

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finally got under way in 2022 with Cameroon hosting the tournament and winning group A despite a 1-1 draw with Cape Verde. The most surprising result of the group stage was Equatorial Guinea’s 1-0 win over African champions Algeria who finished bottom of group E and moved rapidly down the football rankings after losing 3-1 to Ivory Coast having drawn blanks against Sierra Leone in their first match. Comoros progressed from group C after a 3-2 victory over Ghana that sent the Black Stars home while in group D Nigeria finished top having defeated Egypt 1-0 in the opening match. Gambia made it through to the next round with honours, having picked up a stunning 1-0 win over Tunisia who scraped through group F to knock Nigeria out with a single goal only to fall to Burkina Faso by the same scoreline in the next round. Zimbabwe lost 2-1 to Malawi and reversed the result against Guinea but finished bottom of group B that was won by Senegal who scored their only goal of the group from the penalty spot deep into stoppage time against Zimbabwe in the first match of the group. The Senegalese, who without the late penalty conversion against Zimbabwe would have finished bottom of their group, went on to defeat Cape Verde 2-0 in next round before celebrating 3-1 victories over Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso that took them to the final where they got the better of Egypt in a penalty shootout after a goalless 120 minutes.

While the Africa Cup of Nations was taking place, several World Cup qualifiers were played. In South America, Bolivia who were trashed 4-1 in Venezuela returned home to lose 3-2 to Chile while the Venezuelans travelled to Uruguay where they were taken apart 4-1 and in North America El Salvador scored twice in Honduras while Costa Rica held their Mexican hosts to a goalless draw and in Asia Vietnam celebrated a 3-1 home win against China.