Group D: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Malawi
With the African Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar set to take off, one group that a lot of people would expect a lot more fireworks are Group D. The group obviously is anticipated to be a two horse race between Cameroon and Ivory Coast.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon have graced the occasion of the World Cup seven times with their first taste coming in 1982 in Spain. Despite drawing all three matches without a defeat, Cameroon failed to qualify for the second round. Subsequently, Cameroon participated in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 editions. The Kairos moment of the Indomitable Lions came in their second appearance in 1990 when they became the first African side to get to the quarter finals of the World Cup. That tournament could not pass by without the iconic dance or jubilation by Cameroon legend Roger Milla. Subsequent to that, their appearances at the World Cup have been marred by unimpressive outcomes, failing to replicate their performance in1990. Some notable players that Cameroon have produced include Samuel Eto Fils, Patrick Mboma, Roger Milla, Francois Omam Biyik, Rigobert Song and Marc-Vivien Foe.
Notable coaches who have made remarkable strides with the Indomitable Lions include Valeri Nepomnachi, who led the team at the 1990 World Cup, Henri Michel and Claud Le Roy. After missing out on the 2018 World Cup, the Indomitable Lions would relish the opportunity to be at their perch with the impending 2022 qualifiers. However, the new generation of Cameroon will have to go every depth to brush aside the Elephants of La Cote D’ Ivoire to make it into the next phase and they know denying the Elephants will be much of the worry as far as group D matters.
Ahead of the qualifiers on September 3, Coach Antonio Conceicao has named a squad of 28 players. Cameroon will look to entrust hope in experienced players like Choupo-Moting , Vincent Aboubakar and Christian Basogog who was a huge revelation at the last Afcon.
The Elephants on the other hand will look at this to reflect on their first qualification which came in 2006. They faced stiff opposition in Cameroon, but the Ivorians successfully made it to Germany 2006 World Cup led by arguably one of the deadliest strikers in the world, Didier Drogba. With the Qatar 2022 World Cup in sight, the Elephants of Cote D’ivoire with a re-surging squad of both experience and youthful exuberance, will seek to leave no stone unturned to repeat what they did 15 years ago when they had to qualify over Cameroon for a maiden World Cup appearance. With experienced players like Goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo, Serge Aurier, Max Gradel, Serey Die and young enterprising players like Franck Kessie , Nicolas Pepe , Amadu Dialo and Sebastien Haller, the Elephants can make their fourth World Cup dream a reality. Coach Patrice Beaumelle and his charges will hope for a good start away to Mozambique.
The Mambas of Mozambique have never qualified for the World Cup before. Led by Head Coach Horacio Goncalves the Mambasare not oblivious of their lowest pedigree yet cannot look down on their dreams to do the impossible. Coach Goncalves squad comprises players from eight domestic clubs – Ferroviaro de Maputo, Costa do Sol, Ferroviario da Beira, Liga Desportiva de Maputo, Associacao Black Bulls, Grupo Chaves Sports, Vilankulo Sports Association and Ferroviario de Nampula. Other foreign based players from France, Portugal and Tanzania have also made the cut.
The Flames of Malawi are also chasing their first ticket to the World Cup. Coach Meck Mwase has named Scotland-based defender Kieran Ngwenya as the notable inclusion to his squad and some other players like Midfielder Tawonga Chimodzi who is based in Cyprus, Defender Charles Petro who plays in Moldova and Striker Francisco Madinga.Coach Mwase has also recalled Wanderers Winger Yamikani Chester who was unavailable for back- to- back decisive qualifying matches for the 2021 Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations which saw the Flames beat South Sudan and Uganda to sail to the final.
Same as Mozambique, local players have a lion‘s share of the team and certainly strength, understanding and focus will be the variables the Flames would rely on to qualify to the world stage. Having qualified for the African Cup of Nations to be staged in Cameroon for the first time in 37 years, this should be a huge catalyst for Malawi to dream of a possibility.