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.