Tough times for African hope­fuls

Race hots up to fill five con­ti­nen­tal slots at 2018 Rus­sian World Cup

African Independent - - SPORT - MONTHATI MOTAUNG

WORLD CUP qual­i­fy­ing in Africa has reached a cru­cial stage with 20 matches be­tween yes­ter­day and Tues­day set to have a ma­jor im­pact on which five coun­tries go to Rus­sia for the 2018 tour­na­ment.

Were Nige­ria to de­feat Cameroon twice, or Egypt to achieve a sim­i­lar feat against Uganda, they would be vir­tu­ally cer­tain of se­cur­ing places.

The same ap­plies to Tu­nisia or the DR Congo, the other two teams with per­fect records after two rounds, who clash twice within five days.

AFRICAN IN­DE­PEN­DENT looks at what is at stake in the eight fix­tures sched­uled for to­day and to­mor­row. In-form Gabon star Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang has done the Ivory Coast a huge favour by declar­ing him­self un­avail­able with­out of­fer­ing an ex­pla­na­tion.

The lim­ited hosts can ill af­ford to do with­out a striker who has scored in eight con­sec­u­tive matches for Ger­man gi­ants Borus­sia Dort­mund. The “Blue Sharks” have gone from first to 30th in the Fifa Africa rank­ings in less than two years while los­ing a string of com­pet­i­tive in­ter­na­tion­als at home.

Morocco, Libya, Burk­ina Faso and Uganda have won in Praia, so there is no rea­son for South Africa not to do so, even with­out their in­jured first and sec­ond-choice goal­keep­ers.

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