World Cup 2022Q: Algeria, Tunisia fancied but other African playoffs in the balance

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Algeria celebrate
Algeria celebrate

Algeria and Tunisia are heavily fancied to qualify on Tuesday for the Fifa World Cup but the outcome of the other three African playoffs for the tournament in Qatar look likely to go down to the wire.

The two north African neighbours both won away in the first leg of their playoff ties on Friday and are expected to best utilise home advantage in their return legs.

Algeria are 1-0 up over Cameroon while Tunisia profited from a horror own goal in Bamako to win away over Mali.

But the other three contests are delicately balanced and set for nerve-jangling deciders in Abuja, Casablanca, and Dakar.

The head-to-head clash between Liverpool team mates Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah has captivated the continent in the build-up to the showdown between Senegal and Egypt and they will reprise that rivalry again on Tuesday.

Mane converted the winning penalty as Senegal edged Egypt to take the Africa Cup of Nations title in Cameroon last month but it was Salah who made the goal that spurred Egypt to a 1-0 win over Senegal in the first leg of their payoff tie in Cairo on Friday.

Senegal, as was the case in the continental competition final, dominated play and might have won more comfortably had they taken their chances but will believe they can overturn the deficit at their stadium in Dakar.

“We can’t be happy with the result but we did enough in the game to give us hope,” said Senegal coach Aliou Cisse.

“Maybe there is a psychological advantage for Egypt but we are lucky to play at home in the return match. It is up to us to do the work to win.”

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Nigeria held Ghana to a goalless draw in a match riddled with errors and both sides will feel they have a chance to emerge triumphant in the return leg at Abuja.

But the Democratic Republic of Congo, who qualified back in 1974 when they were still known as Zaire, will know the odds are staked against them in Casablanca against Morocco.

The Congolese let slip a lead at the home in Kinshasa to be held 1-1. But while Moroccan fans will be confident, their coach Vahid Halilhodzic remained cautious.

“We haven’t qualified yet. We are playing against a very good team. Everything remains to be done in Casablanca,” he said.

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