Ghana, Nigeria & the 10 African Group favourites in 2014 World Cup qualifying gives you the low-down on the teams that are looking good after two games played in the 2014 World Cup qualification series in the African region
By Rami Ayari

We are two matches into the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign in Africa and it's time to check out which teams are favoured to advance to the next and final stage based on the current standings as well as the matches to come.

The traditional heavyweights such as Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Egypt, Nigeria are all on the right path as expected. But there could be a few nasty shocks in store for the other big guns, while the smaller sides could also spring a few surprises.

Below, we look at how the 10 groups are shaping up.


Group Standings: Ethiopia (4 pts) CAR (3 pts) South Africa (2 pts) Botswana (1 pt)

Though they lost their second match away to Ethiopia after starting with a home win against Botswana in their first, on current form the Central African Republic can be considered Group A favourites by a hair. It is fair to say that their stunning display against Egypt in a separate continental qualifying campaign gives them the edge over Ethiopia, who are one point ahead in the standings. If Centrafrique can beat a side as organised and talented as Egypt 3-2 in Alexandria while playing a man down, then they should have belief that they can win anywhere.

While it’s true that the match was played behind closed doors and without the pressure of the fans, a victory in Egypt is a fabulous achievement for a country that is just beginning to impose itself on the African scene. Should they follow through on June 30 and oust Bob Bradley’s side from 2013 Afcon qualifying then that will be an enormous confidence boost for them before the World Cup qualifiers continue in March. They famously defeated Algeria 2-0 and held Morocco to a goalless draw in the recent past so they are certainly well positioned against the Pharaohs, and the rest of their Group A opponents.


Group Standings: Tunisia (6 pts) Sierra Leone (4 pts) Equatorial Guinea (1 pt) Cape Verde (0 pts)

Nothing too complicated here as Tunisia are currently one of only three teams to have won an away match in 2014 WCQ thus far (Egypt and Guinea being the others) and one of two alongside the Pharaohs to have started flawlessly by gathering six points out of six. The Carthage Eagles are already two points clear of their closest rivals Sierra Leone, whom they will host when qualifiers continue in March.

A win in that game will create more breathing space between the north Africans and their rivals, with trips to Malabo and Freetown still beckoning. Sami Trabelsi has helped his side rediscover a more free flowing approach that has served them well thus far. Plus, Tunisia’s roster is stacked with players who have experienced plenty of success in Africa at club level, and they will know exactly what to expect.


Group Standings: Cote d’Ivoire (4 pts) Tanzania (3 pts) Morocco (2 pts) Gambia (1 pt)

No room for arguments here as Cote d’Ivoire are certainly the most likely candidate to advance to the next round of 2014 World Cup qualifiers after winning their first match against Tanzania and then taking a point from their showdown against Morocco. It could have been sweeter still for the Elephants had Hamza Abourrouzouk failed to convert a last-minute chance to make it 2-2 in Marrakech.

Tanzania are one point behind Sabri Lamouchi’s team at the moment but it's unlikely that the Taifa Stars would create too many problems for one of the most star-studded sides in Africa in the long run. Cote d’Ivoire have won in Dar es Salaam before as recently as 2010 and should be able to pull off the feat thanks to the quality of their European-based line-up.


Group Standings: Sudan (4 pts) Ghana (3 pts) Zambia (3 pts) Lesotho (1 pt)

This is a tough one to call since it is filled with three teams who participated in the previous Afcon and all will have legitimate aspirations of progressing on the road to a bigger stage in Brazil in two years. Though they’re currently first, with four points in the bag, Sudan are overlooked because of their poor history of away results, as evidenced by their goalless draw against Lesotho following their impressive home win against the Chipolopolo.

Aside from boasting an arguably deeper squad in terms of raw talent, Ghana rank ahead of Zambia in recognition of their superior goal difference (+6 compared to +1) and the knowledge that their last qualifier will be against Herve Renard’s men in Ghana. The home advantage could end up being a determining factor in the end.


Group Standings: Congo (4 pts) Gabon (4 pts) Burkina Faso (1 pt) Niger (1 pt)

Gabon are currently tied with Congo for first place as each have four points and the same goal differential. Behind them are Burkina Faso and Niger, each with one point and a -1 goal difference. Although they have switched coaches following a positive co-hosting of the 2012 Afcon, the general trend for the Panthers is upward.

The same cannot necessarily be said of the other sides in the group. Paulo Duarte and his men face a tough test against the Congolese in Pointe-Noire come March and then play host to the same team in the game after that. Those two fixtures will go a long way towards deciding the group winner. Technically there is everything for Congo to play for, but their elimination from 2013 Afcon qualifying following a 4-0 loss to Uganda has severely dented their confidence. Expect Gabon to continue improving and benefiting from the experiences gained from their good showing in January.


Group Standings: Nigeria (4 pts) Namibia (3 pts) Malawi (2 pts) Kenya (1 pt)

They are still not the Nigeria that African teams used to fear but the Super Eagles are good enough to be considered favourites to advance after two qualifiers played. They have one more point than Namibia, two more than Malawi, and three clear of Kenya. One would expect Malawi to give them a run for their money but the game against the Flames in Blantyre was already played and the Super Eagles came back with a point.

It may not be as pretty as their passionate fans expect, but the Nigerians are well placed in this group, especially since their last qualifier will be at home and their only remaining road games are against Namibia and Kenya, two teams that they outclassed on both the individual and collective level, even when they are not at their very best. In fact, the Super Eagles have never lost to the Harambee Stars or the Brave Warriors before.


Group Standings: Egypt (6 pts) Guinea (3 pts) Zimbabwe (1 pt) Mozambique (1 pt)

While they are unthinkably in danger of missing out on a second Afcon in a row after winning three times in succession before that, the Pharaohs are certainly the favourites of their 2014 World Cup qualifying group. The arrival of Bob Bradley has given the team a more attacking approach than Egypt had under his predecessors but stability at the back has been elusive, a point that was highlighted with the stunning 3-2 home defeat to the Central African Republic.

Nevertheless, Egypt arguably have the toughest test of this stage behind them: the comeback in Conakry, which they passed with flying colours. Though they are certainly handicapped by the lack of home support to rely on due to the continuing political upheaval in Egypt, Bradley still has this team off to one of their best starts ever in World Cup qualification. Guinea certainly will not go quietly, though.


Group Standings: Benin (4 pts) Algeria (3 pts) Mali (3 pts) Rwanda (1 pt)

Benin may be in first place with four points to Algeria and Mali’s three each, but realistically, it is difficult to see the Squirrels continuing to gather points at this pace, especially with trips to Bamako and Blida on the horizon for them. It is a risk to overlook Mali, who played so well at the 2012 Afcon, where they produced an unprecedented third-place podium finish, but one just gets the sense that the chaos within their squad, with Alain Giresse leaving unexpectedly, will give way to Algerian stability over the long run.

The Fennecs have a world-class coach leading them and his experience has already done them wonders, converting a mostly defensive side into one that is solid and yet capable to scoring four goals in a single game. However, they have yet to do it against top-tier opposition but there is a feeling that good things are on the way for Algeria with Vahid Halilhodzic in charge. Also, it certainly helps when you have playmakers like Sofiane Feghouli and Ryad Boudebouz supplying up-and-coming strikers such as Islam Slimani.


Group Standings: Libya (4 pts) DR Congo (3 pts) Cameroon (3 pts) Togo (1 pt)

This is one of the trickier distinctions to make as the group features three teams that are practically even on points, with Cameroon, Libya, and DR Congo having the possibility to advance. Although they have just lost to the Mediterranean Knights in Sfax, the Indomitable Lions have one of the best qualifying records in African history and picking them as favourites is a nod to those past achievements.

Currently though, it is clear that Denis Lavagne still has plenty of work to do in order to get his side playing the type of football that gets fans excited. No one doubts that they have a wealth of players to choose from but if they are complacent, they could see a more cohesive Libyan side expand on their one-point advantage in the standings. For now though, Cameroon still have that extra bit of quality that you would expect to shine through in the end.


Group Standings: Senegal (4 pts) Uganda (2 pts) Angola (2 pts) Liberia (1 pt)

This is fairly clear-cut and should not come as much of a surprise considering recent results. Following a hugely disappointing 2012 Afcon, the Teranga Lions look to be roaring again to the tune of a 3-1 comeback win over Liberia in their first game and a 1-1 away draw to Uganda in their second. It could have been better still had they not concede a late equaliser to the Cranes on a penalty that caused some controversy.

Senegal’s main opposition will undoubtedly come from Angola and Uganda, who will have their say, but ultimately, the west Africans are their own worst enemy at times. Caretaker coach Joseph Koto has done a decent job guiding the ship thus far and it will be interesting to see whether the Senegalese FA still insists on bringing in a foreign coach after the botched signing of Pierre Lechantre.

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