The Confederation of African Football (CAF) made the draw for the final qualifying round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup throwing up some intriguing ties in the quest to determine which nations will represent the continent in world football’s biggest stage.
The standout tie will see the continent’s top-ranked team Senegal play record seven-time African champions Egypt in one of five two-legged ties to determine the final qualifiers.
That game means only one of two of the biggest names in African football will represent the continent at the tournament in Qatar, either Sadio Mane of Senegal or Mohamed Salah of Egypt.
Mane and Salah are teammates at English club Liverpool and have been instrumental in the club’s success in the last few years propelling the profile of African players in European football to greater heights.
Egypt was the first African country to reach the FIFA World Cup playing at the tournament in Italy in 1934, while Senegal is one of the three African teams to have reached the quarterfinals of the tournament.
The other ties will see Cameroon, the first African team to reach the World Cup quarterfinals, face dethroned Africa Cup of Nations champions Algeria, who will be aiming to put behind the disappointment of their dismal title defence and reach the World Cup for a fifth time.
Ghana, one of the other teams to have reached the quarterfinals, will play a West African derby against Nigeria, who will be hoping to make their seventh appearance at the finals. The Super Eagles have never gone past the Round of 16 in three attempts in 1994, 1998 and 2014.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose only World Cup appearance was in 1974, will play Morocco, the first African team to advance from the group stage of the World Cup.
Finally, Mali, the only team in the draw never to have qualified for the World Cup, was pitted against Tunisia, who have previously qualified for the tournament five times.
The tie will be a rematch of their controversial Africa Cup of Nations Group F game which saw Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe make a series of disputed decisions resulting in a 1-0 win for the West Africans.
Sikazwe infamously ended the match after only 85 minutes only to restart the match and then end it before 90 minutes had elapsed in a game with VAR checks, substitutions and penalty kicks.
The ties are scheduled to take place in March with the World Cup itself set to kick off in November.
(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)