World Cup 2002 - African qualification

Zusammenfassung in Deutsch ]
World Cup 2002 - African qualification 
  • general preview: for different reasons it can be expected to see a lot of familiar faces again at Japan/Korea 2002
  • the first round: because of the seeding the knock-out stage had been a low hurdle for the big teams. A few surprises as usual in the second row
  • the group matches: four groups have clear favorites but can become close anyway, one group is really tough

  • follow the group matches on THE SHOT LIVE 

When evaluationg the chances for the 50 nations participating in the World Cup qualification campaign, there can be found a few differences to the situation before an African Nations Cup final tournament. 

Before the Nations cup all teams have some time to prepare. But the qualification matches are played on singular dates and many countries face logistic problems gather all their players and prepare a good match. 
This gives an edge to the more wealthy campaigners north of the Sahara and to South Africa. 

Tunisia has another advantage: a majority of players play at home. Although there is a tendency some might look for Europe, this should remain the same to some extent. 

Nigeria, Cameroon, and probably Ghana will be other names to have an advantage: They now have a grown team and most of their players play at big European clubs. They have experience in this and they are used to a similar way of thinking about the game and can more quickly find some organised face. 

So it looks quite likely that From the known old faces from the last 6 World Cups Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Cameroon, and Egypt, at least four will return.  

The preliminary knock-out round 

To reduce the field to 25 countries who will then play in 5 groups with 5 teams each, a preliminary knock-out round had been drawn: 
25 stronger teams were seeded and drawn against 25 teams who are considered as minor forces. 

A knock-out round always has some possible traps even when teams are seeded and matches big against small are arranged. There is an inevitable gap in the motivation: the small ones can only win, the big ones only lose, any other is just the realisation of the expected. 
In the qualification for 1998 Congo and Kenya managed to surprise the Côte d'Ivoire and Algeria in the first leg of their matches. 
In the return leg they defended their advantage and the two big ones were out after one round. 
But there had been even more surprises: Zambia had lost 0:2 at Sudan but managed a turnaround. Ghana narrowly scraped through against  Tanzania in the last minutes.  
The at that time stronger-seeded Mozambique, Senegal, and Sierra Leone lost to Namibia, Togo, and Burundi. (Sierra Leone adavanced because Burundi withdrew later). 
It had been 5 of 16 matches which had been won by the thought minnows! 

This time the gap had been bigger: More small nations have participated and there have been 25 knock-out round matches. 
Anyway teams like Malawi and Sudan have qualified on the expense on recently more fancied names. 

The preliminary knock-out round in detail 

The Groups: Group A 

Cameroon, Angola, Libya, Zambia, Togo (preview to follow) 
Cameroon faces a difficult match at ambitious Libya. Will they march through the qualifiers easily?  
Angola plays Zambia, if one of the two wants to challenge Cameroon, they will have to win here. 
(Togo idle) 
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Group B 

Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Liberia, Ghana (preview to follow) 
Nigeria cannot afford wasting points against Sierra Leone, they will be hunted by Ghana. But coach Bonfrere says players are not 100% fit and Sierra Leone has called up all professionals and looks ambitious 
Sudan plays Liberia in a match unlikely to see a serious challenger for the two group giants 
(Ghana idle) 
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Group C 

Algeria, Senegal, Namibia, Morocco, Egypt (preview to follow) 
In the probably toughest group anything can happen. Though Morocco and Egypt are favorites, depending on the outcome of matches, Algeria and dark horse Senegal could become a surprise. They play each other Friday at Algeria. 
In the second match Morocco plays at Namibia. It could become very important in the end not to lose any points here. 
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Group D 

Tunisia, Côte d'Ivoire, Congo, DR Congo, Madagascar (preview to follow) 
Whether this group will become close depends on whether one of the three Congo, DR Congo, and Côte d'Ivoire will take points from each other or whether there will emerge a challenger for Tunisia. 
Tunisia themselves will have to do their job: On Sunday they play at Côte d'Ivoire, arguably the top challenger. If the Ivorians win, this group will become a thriller (at least for some time), otherwise it will be already a big leap forward for the Tunisians. 
In the second match DR Congo will play at Madagascar, a team that will be a problem for many teams at home.  
(idle: Congo) 
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Group E: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Guinea, Burkina Faso 

Whether this group will be decided early or not will depend on whether Zimbabwe, Guinea, and Burkina Faso will take away points from each other or if one of the three emerges as challenger for South Africa. Malawi should play no big role but they might spoil somebody's weekends. 
South Africa: Clear favorites. South Africa has proved it can always come up with a solid squad, quite well prepared, and new talents. They have played for some year on the same consistent level and it will take a challenger who plays in extra-ordinary form throughout the matches to stop them from going to Japan/Korea.  
Zimbabwe: A real dark horse seems to be Zimbabwe. Their Under 23 side came close to stage an upset in the Olympic qualifiers and the Dutch coach Clemens Westerhof intended to rely on that generation. He once coached the Nigerian side of 1994, which is still some frame for the team of today. Against them speaks their reputation to lose crucial matches and that they have the solid South Africans to overcome. 
Malawi: A name that came up from time to time but had not done much recently. Now with a new generation of players they have managed some results and qualified for this stage. Here they will steal to take a few points from the big ones in their home matches. More does hardly seem possible 
Guinea: Quite a good name from West Africa but recently suffering from missing luck. If this turns they might be able to stay in the race for some time. 
Burkina Faso: The West African newcomers among the better third of African football are a good example for an (not only) African problem: lack of contnuity. They lose a match, they fire the coach. The new one has to try the players again, plays a different system, asks different things. Sometimes a surprise comes out of this lottery but normally a national team, where players see each others seldom needs a fixed frame to improve at all. Considering the talent Burkina Faso can always be a surprise: The young players have impressed a lot of times recently. 

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