2018 CAF World Cup Qualifiers Preview

The CAF World Cup Qualifiers get underway this weekend with some mouth-watering encounters lined up.
CAF World Cup Qualifiers get underway this weekend with some mouth-watering encounters lined up.
The CAF World Cup Qualifiers will get underway this weekend and there are some mouth-watering encounters lined up. Out of the 20 African teams that will be competing in this third and final stage of the preliminary competition, only five teams – the winner of each group – will qualify to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The composition of the five groups is as follows:

Group A
Tunisia, Libya, DR Congo, Guinea
Group B
Zambia, Cameroon, Algeria, Nigeria
Group C
Gabon, Mali, Ivory Coast, Morocco
Group D
Senegal, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Cape Verde
Group E
Congo, Uganda, Egypt, Ghana


Friday 7 October

1/4 Ghana | Draw 5/1 | Uganda 9/1 (17:30)

Ghana will be chasing a fourth successive appearance at the FIFA World Cup and they’ll want to make a strong start against Uganda on Friday. Avram Grant’s side secured top spot in Group H to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. The Black Stars went unbeaten from their six matches in the group with four wins, scoring 14 goals while conceding three. They slipped to a disappointing 1-0 loss against Russia at the Stadion Lokomotiv in a friendly duel last month but they’ll be confident of victory. The likes of Andre Ayew and Kwadwo Asamoah will miss the clash due to injuries, but there’s enough quality in their side to hurt the opposition.

Milutin Sredojevic’s men come into this game on the back of qualifying for their first major tournament in 39 years, when they booked their ticket for the 2017 AFCON – as one of the two best group runners-up. The Cranes won four out of six games in Group D, losing once to Burkina Faso who topped the group. These teams last met in 2014 when they shared the spoils at the Baba Yara Stadium in an AFCON 2015 qualifier before Uganda recorded a surprise 1-0 win in Kampala. A tight affair is expected, but Uganda are tipped to earn a point at 5/1.

Saturday 8 October

43/20 Gabon | 2/1 | Morocco 27/20 (17:00)

Gabon are looking to qualify for their first FIFA World Cup, but they find themselves in a daunting group with Ivory Coast, Morocco and Mali. Their first qualifier is against Morocco, who haven’t qualified for the competition since the 1998 France World Cup. Gabon – who will host next year’s Africa Cup of Nations – have struggled in their preparations for the AFCON with only two wins from their six friendly matches, suffering four defeats. The Panthers will rely on captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to fire them to victory. The Borussia Dortmund striker has been in superb form in the German Bundesliga with five goals in as many appearances.

Morocco qualified for the 2017 AFCON by finishing top of Group F with 16 points, seven clear of Cape Verde. The Atlas Lions were unbeaten in qualifying, with five wins out of six, scoring 10 goals while conceding just once. The Moroccans are tipped to oust their opponents at 27/20.

8/10 DR Congo | 47/20 | Libya 7/2 (19:30)

DR Congo will look to qualify for Russia 2018 for the first time since their maiden appearance as Zaire in 1974. They are in a wide-open group with Tunisia, Guinea and Libya. The Leopards qualified for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations as winners of Group B, winning five out of six matches – losing once to Central African Republic. They did, however, avenge that defeat by thrashing Les Fauves 4-1 in their last qualifier. French-born striker Cedric Bakambu is DR Congo’s main goal threat with three goals in eight caps.

Libya failed to qualify for the 2017 AFCON as they finished third in Group F with seven points. The Mediterranean Knights lost their first three games which gave them too much of a mountain to climb, despite a turnaround in form where they went unbeaten in the next three games with two wins. Libya has punched above their weight under Javier Clemente with the Spaniard steering the team to victory at the 2014 African Nations Championship, where they beat Ghana on penalties to win the title. It will be a tough game but with home advantage, DR Congo are tipped to edge their opponents.

6/10 Ivory Coast | 31/10 | Mali 4/1 (20:00)

African champions Ivory Coast will lock horns with arch-rivals Mali on Saturday. The Elephants qualified for a seventh straight Cup of Nations by winning Group I with six points after drawing twice against Sierra Leone and taking four points off Sudan. Michel Dussuyer’s side will now be chasing a fourth successive appearance at the FIFA World Cup. They’ll be without talisman Yaya Toure who retired from international duty last month, ending his 14-year career with the reigning African champions. The Elephants still have quality in their side with the likes of Eric Bailly, Serge Aurier and Wilfried Bony.

With their spot in Gabon 2017 secure, Mali will look to qualify for their first World Cup finals. The Eagles finished their Group C campaign unbeaten with five wins out of six. In those games, they scored 13 goals while conceding just three times. Mali are unbeaten in their last two meetings against Ivory Coast, drawing 1-1 in the 2015 AFCON, before winning 1-0 in this year’s African Nations Championship. I’m backing the teams to cancel each other out at 31/10.

13/20 Senegal | 26/10 | Cape Verde 17/4 (22:00)

Senegal, quarter-finalists at their only World Cup finals appearance in 2002, are favourites in Group D alongside South Africa, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde, in qualification for the 2018 World Cup. The Teranga Lions are enjoying a brilliant run on the continent after emerging as the only team with a 100 per cent record in the qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017. Aliou Cisse boasts a very strong squad with the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye and Sadio Mane.

Lucio Antunes will lead Cape Verde’s bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals, replacing Felisberto Cardoso after he failed to secure a place at the 2017 Nations Cup. The Blue Sharks won three and lost three in qualifying, scoring 11 goals while conceding seven. It shows they’ve got goals in them, but their defence is a concern. Senegal have won 11 of their 15 meetings against Cape Verde, losing twice. The Teranga Lions are tipped confidently at 13/20.

Sunday 9 October

33/10 Zambia | 49/20 | Nigeria 8/10 (14:30)

Both Zambia and Nigeria failed to qualify for next year's Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. Despite losing only once in Group E, their biggest issue was failing to convert their draws into wins as they played to four stalemates. The 2012 African champions needed an 86th minute equalizer from Rainford Kalaba to draw 1-1 with bottom-placed Kenya in their final qualifier. Prior to that result, Chipolopolo were beaten 1-0 by Namibia in a friendly match. That form doesn’t bode well for their chances and to make matters worse, Wedson Nyirenda will be without Kaizer Chiefs striker Lewis Macha due to an ankle injury.

Gernot Rohr secured his first win in charge of the Super Eagles following their 1-0 win against Tanzania in the final game of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho scored the game’s lone goal in the 79th minute. The Super Eagles are on a three-match winning streak, including friendly wins over Mali and Luxembourg. Nigeria have some top talent in their side with the likes of Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa and Chelsea duo John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses all playing for England’s big clubs. The Super Eagles are a top bet at 8/10. Get on!

31/20 Congo | 9/4 | Egypt 17/10 (16:30)

Up next is a tie between two African giants in Congo and Egypt. The Red Devils are a place behind the Pharaohs in the FIFA rankings, however, Congo are still priced up as favourites. The Congolese national team have never qualified for the FIFA World Cup and will need a solid performance to break down this Egypt side. Having said that, Pierre Lechantre’s side have won just one of their last five matches.

The Pharaohs have a much better head-to-head record over their opponents, winning six of their seven meetings. Egypt have an abundance of quality in their ranks, including Roma starlet Mohamed Salah and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny. Group E will be one of the most challenging, but Egypt should prevail. For that extra bit of value, back the visitors to Win To Nil at 28/10.

1/1 Tunisia | 22/10 | Guinea 29/10 (19:00)

Tunisia have failed to qualify for the World Cup since Germany 2006, but they’re favourites in a group that contains Libya, DR Congo and Guinea. With three wins in their last four games, The Eagles of Carthage will be keen to maintain that form as they take on Guinea. The Tunisians secured their spot in Gabon 2017 by topping Group A with 13 points, winning four out of six matches having scored 16 goals while conceding three.

Having failed to book a place in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, minnows Guinea will face a struggle to qualify for their first ever World Cup. The National Elephants won just two out of six matches in their AFCON qualifiers with two draws and as many defeats. This should be a comfortable victory for Tunisia.

19/20 Algeria | 24/10 | Cameroon 28/10 (21:30)

African heavyweights Algeria and Cameroon will do battle in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier. The group they share looks by far the toughest of the African pools, containing Nigeria and Zambia, 2013 and 2012 African champions respectively. The Desert Warriors have already secured their place, at a canter, for the Nations Cup finals in Gabon. Algeria – Africa's number one ranked team – went unbeaten in Group J with five wins out of six, netting 25 goals while conceding five. New coach Milovan Rajevac has inherited a star-studded team with quality players such as Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and Yacine Brahimi.

Cameroon come into the clash off a 2-1 friendly win over AFCON 2017 hosts Gabon. The Indomitable Lions will also compete in the Nations Cup after going unbeaten in Group M with 14 points, comfortably ahead of Mauritania (8), South Africa (7) and Gambia, who finished with two points. Coach Hugo Broos will rely on Vincent Aboubakar and Clinton Njie to terrorize the Algerian defence. This promises to be a close encounter but with home advantage, Algeria should prove too strong.

TREBLE @ 5/1
Senegal Win 13/20
Nigeria Win 8/10
Tunisia Win 1/1

Written by Chadley Nagel