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North African teams draw first blood in Qatar World Cup 2022 qualifiers

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The eagerly awaited first-leg matches of the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying matches to determine African qualifiers for the Mundial held across the continent on Friday, was dominated by North African teams with Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia picking crucuial away wins.

Egypt pipped their AFCON 2021 conquerors, Senegal, 1-0, and Algeria replicated same against Cameroon, while Morocco brightened their chances by drawing 1-1 away to DR Congo, and Mali gifted Tunisia a 1-0 away win through an own goal.

However, the much anticipated West African derby between Ghana and Nigeria ended in a 0-0 stalemate in what many fans described as a boring affair but with the return leg on Tuesday in Abuja, the die is cast for the long held ‘Jollof Derby’ to be settled once and for all.

With just five goals scored across the five first-leg matches in Africa’s World Cup qualifying playoffs, the return legs may not be as cagey as the first leg matches showed.

Egypt humbles Senegal

An unfortunate own goal in the 4th minute by Senegal’s Saliou Ciss was all Egypt needed to pip the African champions 1-0 in the first leg of their World Cup play-off in Cairo.

The mistake which forced Ciss to turn the ball pass Eduoard Mendy came from a shot by Mohamed Salah which struck the defender and flew past the Chelsea keeper to nestle in the back of the net.

The game which featured Liverpool’s win strike stars, Salah and Sadio Mane, was touted to be a repeat of the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations final which Senegal won on penalties after a pulsating 0-0 draw, but the match turned out to be a cagey affair with few chances created by either sides.

Algeria pips Cameroon for crucial lead

Cameroon have a mountain to climb when they face Algeria in the second leg after Islam Slimani’s headed goal gave the former African champions a 1-0 away victory to take put one foot in the World Cup in Qatar.

Algeria will host Caneroon in the return tie in Blida on Tuesday, and may well be dreaming of their fifth appearance at the Mundial.

Morocco in the driver’s seat after draw in DR Congo

A brilliant Tarik Tissoudali equaliser late in the game saw Morocco fight back after an earlier missed penalty, to earn a 1-1 draw away at Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Kinshasa.

The draw moves the North African giants closer to a sixth World Cup appearance in Qatar with the second leg billed for Casablanca looking a sure win for the host.

Yoane Wissa had given DRC a credible 12th-minute lead after he beat the offside trap down the left wing, before cutting inside and unleashing a shot from just outside the box that took a slight defection off a Moroccan defender and beating goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to his blind side.

With away goals counting double on the continent, odds favour Morocco to take the day on Tuesday.

Unfortunate Mali hands Tunisia initiative

Malian defender Moussa Sissako, was the villain as his unforced own goal gave Tunisia the away goal.

Sissako scored the bizarre own goal in the 36th minute when his attempt to pass the ball back to his keeper sailed into an empty net.

He was then sent off four minutes later after being adjudged to have tripped a Tunisian attacker as the last man in defense.

Even a goal and a man down, Mali had chances to at least draw level with Yves Bissouma missing two sisters, but in the end, it was Tunisia that smiled last with the second leg looking almost done and dusted.

Drab stalemate in Ghana and Nigeria ‘Jollof Derby’

The matchup between eternal rivals, Ghana and Nigeria had generated so much reviews with the much touted ‘Jollodf Derby’ billed to be the biggest match of the day.

But at the end of 90 minutes, both set of fans were disappointed at the dean barren draw at the packed Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.

The only excitement in an otherwise forgettable derby was the the VAR controversy which denied Nigeria a obvious penalty in the second half half after a Ghanaian midfielder, Iddrisu Baba, had scooped the ball with his hands under pressure from Nigerian strikers.

A review of the decision in the closing stages of the west African showdown found that Baba was fouled before he handled the ball.

However, the two countries still have Tuesday to end the ‘Jollof Debate’ at the MKO Stadium in Abuja.

Final Results

Egypt 1-0 Senegal

Ghana 0-0 Nigeria

Cameroon 0-1 Algeria

Mali 0-1 Tunisia

DRC 1-1 Morocco

Sports

Nigerian keeper Nwabali becomes beautiful bride as English, Saudi clubs battle for him

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Super Eagles and Chippa United of South Africa goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabali, has become a hot property as he is attracting serious interest from clubs in England and Saudi Arabia.

According to transfer guru and journalist, Fabrizio Romano, English Championship side, Queens Park Rangers (QPR), and Saudi Arabian side, Al Ettifaq, who are managed by Steven Gerrard, are among the teams willing to splash the cash to lure Nwabali away from Chippa.

“Nigeria GK Stanley Nwabali, on the list of different clubs as Al Ettifaq in Saudi and Queens Park Rangers in UK have enquired about him. His South African club Chippa United will consider his future move in the next months,” Romano wrote on X on Monday morning.

Romano added that the two clubs as well as some unnamed clubs have made enquiries about Nwabali and Chippa will look into his future but it remains to be if a transfer will materialise.

The 27-year-old had an impressive outing at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations tournament where he pulled out impressive performances to lead Nigeria to the final.

His performances has also sparked rumours of interest in the South Africa with top PSL rivals, Kaizer Chiefs, being one of the clubs mentioned.

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Rigobert Song pens emotional farewell message following sack as Indomitable Lions’ coach

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Former coach of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, Rigobert Song, has bid an emotional farewell to fans of the national team following his sack during the week.

Song, who was relieved of his position by the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) led by his former teammate, Samuel Eto’o, on Wednesday, said he was so grateful for the opportunity to coach the team and expressed hopes of better days for the team’s future.

Reflecting on his tenure, Song expressed his pride in having led the Indomitable Lions for two years.

“I was very honored for two years to be the head coach of our national football team, the Indomitable Lions,” he wrote in his parting statement.

“Sport being what it is, our performances during these competitions were not commensurate with the notoriety and prestige of Cameroonian football.

“The Indomitable Lions is my story, it’s my Life. I remain a fan who knows that new and beautiful pages in the history of Cameroonian football will be written,” Song stated.

Song’s sacking followed Cameroon’s unexpected exit from the Africa Cup of Nations in January at the hands of Nigeria, coupled with a string of uninspiring results over the years.

His course was also not helped by his famous fallout with goalkeeper Andre Onana at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar where the fans favourite was send home from the team’s camp, an act which drew serious criticism from football fans in the country.

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