2022 WCQ

Profiling the African teams in the Third Round play-offs: Mali, Egypt, Ghana

Mali, Egypt, and Ghana have qualified for the final two-legged playoffs to secure a place at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup

Egypt will be counting on Mohamed Salah to reach the World Cup finals for only the fourth time

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) now has a full pot of ten countries for the third round of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. As the referee's whistle signaled full-time at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on Tuesday night, Cameroon took their place as the tenth nation to book their place in the final round of qualifying.

Topping their respective groups of four countries each, each team will face-off with another in a two-legged playoff to determine Africa's five representatives at the 22nd FIFA World Cup finals. This is how each team qualified for the third and final round of the 2022 World Cup qualification series.

Qualification route

The Eagles of Mali were one of the standout performers in the African qualifiers. Mohamed Magassouba's side topped Group E with 16 points, a convincing seven-point gap between them and second-placed Uganda. The Malians won five out of their six group games, drawing the remaining one.

An impressive feat achieved by the West Africans was keeping six successive clean sheets all through qualifying, never conceding a goal. They scored 11 goals in six matches with their biggest victory coming in a 5-0 home win over Kenya on Matchday 3.

Topscorer

Norway-based Ibrahima Kone was Mali's top scorer in second-round qualifying. The Sarpsborg 08 striker scored five goals in six games for The Eagles.

World Cup history

The Eagles of Mali are in the hunt for their first-ever World Cup finals appearance. They will face an uphill battle as they are in the lower-ranked pot, destined to face one of Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, or Tunisia. Their best result in the African Cup of Nations was in 1972 when they finished 2nd.

Where are they now?

Mali struggled to convert their possession and territorial dominance into goals at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), and were eliminated on penalties by Equatorial Guinea in the Round of 16. They have kept faith with Magassouba, however, and have the best midfield in Africa quality-wise. More than a match for any team on their day, their meeting with Tunisia is set to be a cagey affair.

Qualification route

Mohamed Salah-led Egypt are gunning for World Cup qualification after pipping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Gabon to the Group F playoff ticket. Egypt finished with 14 points recording four victories and two draws in six games.

The Pharaohs scored ten goals and conceded four goals, keeping just three clean sheets in six qualifying games. Carlos Queiroz's side recorded their biggest victory in a 3-0 win over North-African neighbours Libya on Matchday 4.

Topscorer

Al-Ahly midfielder Mohamed Magdy was Egypt's top scorer in second round qualifying, netting two goals in six matches both from the penalty spot. Egypt will hope that their Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah will come to life in the third-round playoff as he failed to score in the second round of qualifiers.

World Cup history

Africa's most successful national side has one of the poorest records on the World stage, having never won a game at the Mundial and with their dismal record reading two draws and five defeats. Egypt have been to the World Cup on three occasions, the first being in 1934. Their next appearance was in 1990, 56 years after first qualifying. They will be hoping to make it consecutive finals in 2022 after featuring in Russia 2018.

Where are they now?

Egypt shocked many in making it all the way to the Final of the AFCON. Their progress was heavily reliant of defensive discipline and an uncanny knack to win penalty shoot-outs; only champions Senegal were able to puncture their invincibility in that latter regard. it will be intriguing then to see just how their rematch(es) pan out, especially over two legs.

Qualification route

The Black Stars of Ghana secures a third-round spot after edging South Africa on Matchday 6 to secure a third-round spot, but it was an outcome accompanied by controversy.

Andre Ayew's 33rd-minute penalty gave Ghana a 1-0 victory that took them level on points (13) with Bafana Bafana and also crucially took their tally to seven goals from six games, just one more than South Africa's six from six games.

Milovan Rajevac's side won four games, drew one, and lost one, the same as South Africa in a tightly-contested second round. Ghana scored seven goals and conceded three in six matches. They scored more than one goal in only one match throughout the second round, a 3-1 home win against Zimbabwe on Matchday 3.

Topscorer

Al Sadd forward Andre Ayew was the Black Stars' top scorer in second round qualifying, finding the back of the net on three occasions.

World Cup history

Ghana have been to the World Cup finals on only three occasions, their first being in 2006. However, they are arguably the most successful African side at the Mundial, progressing to the knockout stages on two out of their three appearances. In 2010, they were close to being the first African team to reach the semifinals, controversially losing the quarterfinal to Uruguay after Luiz Suarez handled a goal-bound ball in second-half added time.

Where are they now?

One of the huge disappointments of the AFCON, Ghana's loss to Comoros saw them finish bottom of Group C. That failure claimed Rajevac's scalp, and in his stead is former international Otto Addo on an interim basis. There is little clarity as to how the Black Stars will line up or what the Borussia Dortmund youth coach will be able to imprint on the team in such a short time. A meeting with arch-rivals Nigeria for a place in Qatar is a real challenging litmus test in that regard.

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