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Is Africa at Qatar World Cup to complete numbers? Here’s how we score the teams

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The five African teams that qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar knew their opponents on Friday when the draws were held at the Doha Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Prior to the draw, reigning African champions, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Cameroon and Ghana, were pooled in Groups A, F, D, G and H, with fans of each team praying for favourable pairings.

But in the draws proper, different interesting scenarios played out as Ghana was given the opportunity to exact a revenge on Uruguay for the heartbreak they suffered in the 2010 edition when a Luiz Suarez’s last minute handball deprived them from advancing into the semifinals.

But how will the African teams fare at the World Cup after getting to know their opponents?

Senegal

AFCON 2021 winners, Senegal, presents Africa’s most realistic chance of getting farther in the Qatar 2022 World Cup after being drawn against host Qatar, the Netherlands, and Ecuador.

Undoubtedly Africa’s best side at the World Cup, Senegal has got a favourable draw and with the likes of Liverpool striker Saido Mane, Chelsea goalkeeper, Edouard Mendy, Watford’s Ismaila Sarr, and Napoli defence lynchpin, Kalillou Coulibaly, marshalling the defence, they will fancy their chances of ruffling some feathers.

Their toughest opponents in the group will undoubtedly be Netherlands but Aliou Cisse’s troops have what it takes to hold their own.

Cameroon

The Indomitable Lions defied the odds when they went to Blida to take on Algeria with a one goal deficit, only to shock their hosts with a dramatic 2-1 win to pick the World Cup ticket.

With the Lions drawn with five times World Cup winners, Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia, they face unarguably the toughest chance of making it out of Group C.

However, the Rigobert Song tutored Lions do have a mental toughness that could see them navigate through the tough first round and with their rugged style of play, all fingers will be crossed.

Tunisia

The Carthage Eagles will have to contend with world champions, France and Denmark, while keeping an eye on one of Peru, Australia or the United Arab Emirates to join the group after their different playoffs.

Drawn against the defending World champions and European Championship semi-finalists, Tunisia have their work cut out for them and will feel disillusioned even before a ball is kicked at the Mundial.

Ghana

Ghana’s reward for beating the Super Eagles of Nigeria is a rematch with Uruguay, a team that denied them a semifinal ticket in 2010 in South Africa.

The hurriedly assembled Black Stars, though not spectacular, managed to brush aside a disjointed and lackluster Nigerian team to qualify for the World Cup but do they have what it takes to go against a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea, complete with Tottenham Hotspur’s talisman, Song Heung-min?

Does this Ghanaian team have the quality to go better than its predecessors?

Only time will tell.

Morocco

The Atlas Lions have their work cut out for them having been drawn against Belgium who were semi-finalists in Russia in 2018 and runners up, Croatia, and will have to rely on the brilliance of their star player, Achraf Hakimi, to see them through.

Both Belgium, with their now fading golden generation, and Croatia, are not as good as they were four years ago, so Morocco can dream of getting out of the group, in the very least.

But with a Canadian side that qualified with three games to spare also in the mix, sheer will power and tactical discipline will be all the North Africans need to trudge on.

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Three foreign-born players switch allegiance to Ghana: Can the trio help the Black Stars go far in Qatar?

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Three foreign-born footballers, Tariq Lamptey of Brighton & Hove Albion, Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu as well as Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish La Liga, have all switched allegiance to Ghana and are eligible to play for the Black Stars in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The Europe-based trio are now eligible to represent the four-time African champions at senior level after initially shunning earlier invitations to play for the country, while holding out for invitations to the national teams of their birth countries.

While Lamptey and Salisu had hoped for call ups into the English national team setup, Williams had looked forward to moving from the Spanish Under 21 to the senior national team but with their chances being limited by the day, they have all decided to return to the country of their parents.

The switch of allegiance by the trio was confirmed by the President of the Ghana Football Association, Kurt Edwin Simeon-Okraku, via a post on Twitter on Tuesday night.

“Tariq Lamptey, Inaki Williams, Mohammed Salisu, Stephan Ambrosius, Patrick Pfeffer and Ransford Yeboah [are] available for national selection,” Simeon-Okraku wrote on the micro-blogging platform.

28-year-old Williams had represented Spain at U21 level before playing for their senior national team in a 3-1 friendly defeat of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016, but since then, has not had a look in from the Spanish team selectors.

Salisu was born in Kumasi but left for Europe, first to Spain where he played for Real Valladolid before switching to Premier League side Southampton.

He had previously rejected invitations to star for the Black Stars while hoping to get a call up by either Spain or England while Lamptey who was born in Hillingdon to Ghanaian parents has played for England at U18, U19, U20 and U21 levels but his chances with the Three Lions has been blocked by the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James.

Though the development is a big boost for the Black Stars ahead of the 2022 World Cup, the big question on the lips of soccer fans in the West African country is what the trio will bring to the Black Stars when the best footballing nations gather in Qatar for the World Cup in November.

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CAF postpones 2023 Afcon to January 2024 due to weather concerns

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF), has postponed the 34th edition of the African Nations Cup (AFCON), which was scheduled to hold between June to July of 2023 in Ivory Coast, to January and February, 2024.

The reason for the postponement, according to CAF President, Patrice Motsepe, is due to concerns over weather conditions in the West African country which experiences heavy rainfall during the period.

While addressing the CAF Executive Committee meeting in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday, Motsepe said the decision was also to align the continent with the European football calendars.

Motsepe also said the decision was further motivated by weather concerns following a report by the Ivorian Meteorological Agency which predicted heavy rainfall in many parts of the country designated for the tournament.

The agency, in a report presented to CAF, had noted that Ivory Coast which has a tropical climate, has the peak of its rain season between June and July and most parts of the country is always at the height of the rainy season.

This is the second time the AFCON will be rescheduled at the beginning of the year since it was moved from January/February to June/July by former CAF President Ahmad Ahmad.

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