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African World Cup play-off first leg betting tips: Previews, predictions and odds

Mohamed Salah is the star attraction of the semi-finals

African World Cup 2022 qualifying has reached the third and final round.

The ten group winners now face-off across five two-legged play-off ties with only the five winners qualifying for Qatar.

The return legs take place on Tuesday 29 March.

Egypt vs Senegal

A mere 46 days after going head-to-head in Yaoundé in the Africa Cup of Nations Final, Senegal and Egypt meet again in an equally important clash.

That night, in a game of few chances, it ended goalless, meaning the African champions’ identity was to be determined by a penalty shootout.

Sadio Mané stepping up to take the decisive kick and confidently fired Senegal to their first-ever AFCON trophy.

Now, these two giants go head-to-head twice more and, this time, a place at Qatar 2022 on the line.

Senegal are aiming to reach their third World Cup after appearing at 2002, where they got all the way to the quarter-finals, and then 2018.

Les Lions de la Téranga have breezed through World Cup 2022 qualifying so far, amassing 16 points against Togo, Namibia and Congo.

But, this’ll obviously be a far tougher assignment, so can the African champions build up a first leg lead in Cairo?

Egypt meanwhile have reached ten Africa Cup of Nations Finals, lifting the trophy a record seven-times.

Despite this, the Pharaohs’ World Cup record is underwhelming, only appearing at the 1934, 1990 (both in Italy) and 2018 editions.

So far in this cycle, Carlos Queiroz’s side have cruised to top spot in Group E, above Gabon, Libya and Angola.

Now can the enormous and intimidating Cairo International Stadium roar their team onto a first leg victory?

Under 2.5 goals is 4/11. Draw and under 2.5 goals is 9/4. 

Ghana vs Nigeria

Nigeria World Cup

West Africa’s biggest rivals go head-to-head in a huge game with World Cup qualification on the line.

Nigeria made their World Cup debut at USA ’94 and have qualified for five of the subsequent six editions, only missing out on Germany 2006.

So far in this cycle, the Super Eagles have topped Group C with 13 points, above Cape Verde, Central African Republic and Liberia.

More recently, Augustine Eguavoen’s side have headed to the Africa Cup of Nations with high expectations, but left disappointed.

Nigeria won all three group games, against Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau, but peaked too soon as this was followed by a last 16 defeat to Tunisia.

Will the Super Eagles be soaring again as they looked to make it to another World Cup?

Ghana meanwhile are their fierce local rivals and they’d love nothing better than to qualify for the World Cup at Nigeria expense.

However, like their visitors, the Black Stars did not shine bright at the recent AFCON, crashing out in the group phase with just one point.

So, unsurprisingly, Milovan Rajevać was sacked as Head Coach with Otto Addo in charge for this play-off.

Earlier in World Cup qualifying, Ghana topped Group G but only above South Africa goals scored after beating Bafana Bafana 1-0 on the final matchday.

The Black Stars appeared at three consecutive World Cups between 2006 and 2014, getting all the way to the quarter-finals 12 years ago.

Now, which West African powerhouse will claim a first leg lead at Cape Coast Sports Stadium?

Both teams to score NO is 4/7. Nigeria to win and both teams to score NO is 3/1.

Cameroon vs Algeria

These two powerhouses have won seven Africa Cup of Nations titles between them, but only one will be going to Qatar in November.

Cameroon have qualified for seven World Cups in their history, an African record, but missed out on Russia.

Already in this campaign, les Lions Indomitables have had to knockout fellow-giants Côte d’Ivoire, winning a do or die game 1-0 in November.

Since then, Cameroon have hosted an AFCON for the first time in 50 years and, as such, were expected to lift the trophy.

They did beat Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Comoros and the Gambia but were eventually eliminated at the semi-final stage by Egypt on penalties.

This means, Cameroon still haven’t lost a competitive match on home soil since a defeat to Zaire in 1973.

Will Cameroon continue that record in Douala?

Algeria meanwhile were amongst also the favourites to lift the trophy at AFCON 2021 having won their second African title last time round in 2019.

However, the Dessert Foxes embarrassingly crashed out in the group stages, drawing with Sierra Leone before defeats to Equatorial Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.

Despite this, Head Coach Djamel Belmadi is still in charge, but is under serious pressure to deliver World Cup qualification.

Algeria scored 25 goals in their six games to get this far, hammering Djibouti and Niger whilst edging out Burkina Faso to first place.

Can Algeria end Cameroon’s 49-year unbeaten home streak at Stade de Japoma?

Both teams to score is 5/4. Draw and under 2.5 goals is 12/5.

Mali vs Tunisia

Will Tunisia make it back-to-back World Cup qualifications?

The Eagles of Carthage’s appearance at Russia 2018 means they’ve now qualified for five World Cups to date and they remain on track to make that six.

So far in this campaign, Tunisia have won four of six matches, topping Group B above Equatorial Guinea, Zambia and Mauritania.

Since, they’ve reached the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations, beating Nigeria in a big shock before bowing out to Burkina Faso.

Will Jalel Kadri’s team claim a first leg advantage in Bàmakɔ̌?

Mali meanwhile are aiming to make history by qualifying for a World Cup Finals for the very first time at the sixth attempt.

To get this far, the Eagles went unbeaten through the group stage, winning five of six matches, overcoming Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.

Mohamed Magassouba’s side then reached the round of 16 at AFCON in January, exiting to Equatorial Guinea on penalties.

Now, will there be a winner at Stade du 26 Mars?

Under 2.5 goals is 4/11. Both teams to score NO and under 2.5 goals is 4/6. Mali to win and both teams to score NO is 15/8. 

DR Congo vs Morocco

Morocco come into this match-up as favourites having appeared at five World Cups in their history, ending their 20-year exile last time round.

The get this far in qualifying, the Atlas Lions won all six matches in the group stage, overcoming Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sudan.

However, since then, Vahid Halilhodžić’s side have suffered disappointment at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Morocco beat Ghana, Comoros and Malawi but then bowed out at the quarter-final stage, losing 2-1 after extra time to North African rivals Egypt.

DR Congo, amazingly, didn’t even qualify for this year’s AFCON but have made it to this stage of World Cup qualifying.

The Leopards amassed 11 points in Group J, pipping Benin to top spot thanks to a final day 2-0 victory over their direct rivals in Kinshasa.

Having narrowly missed out on Russia, their sole World Cup appearance remains 1974 when, as Zaire, they lost all three games, conceding 14 goals.

Who will claim a first leg lead at Stade des Martyrs?

Under 2.5 goals is 4/9. Under 2.5 goals and both teams to score NO is 8/11. Morocco to win and under 2.5 goals is 11/4. 

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Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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