Bafana Bafana, Chipolopolo lead Southern Africa’s quest for a place at the 2018 W/Cup
Harare – SOUTHERN Africa’s quest to end a nine-year dance at the FIFA World Cup finals – by qualification – enters a decisive phase this weekend when the region’s heavyweights and lightweights plunge into crucial battles for a place in Russia in 2018.
While South Africa played at the 2010 World Cup finals, Bafana Bafana were there as hosts, and not one of the nation’s that had conquered the grueling qualifying battles -and they made history for all the wrong reasons.
The South Africans became the first host nation to be eliminated during the group stages of the globe’s biggest football showcase as their limitations at this level of the game were cruelly exposed.
The last Southern African nation to qualify for the FIFA World Cup was Angola when they danced with the world’s finest football nations at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
The Palancas Negras defied insurmountable odds to beat the highly favoured Super Eagles of Nigeria and win a place in the German sunshine in Angolan football’s finest hour.
The Angolans continued an impressive record, back then, when teams from this part of the globe routinely qualified for the World Cup with Bafana Bafana having played at the 1998 and 2002 editions of the tournament.
But there was no Southern African flavour at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and a number of nations from the region will be hoping to find the right formula for a return to the showcase in Russia in three years’ time.
Zimbabwe were expelled from the tournament after ZIFA failed to pay former national team coach Valinhos his dues after the Brazilian coached the Warriors during the 2010 World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers.
Malawi fell at the first hurdle of the qualifiers after losing to Tanzania in the first round.
But there will be a big Southern African presence in the second round of the qualifiers this weekend with Zambia, who are yet to qualify for the World Cup, leading the way.
Chipolopolo, champions of African football just three years ago, have a tough date against Sudan with the first leg set for Khartoum this weekend.
Sudan beat Zambia in a Nations Cup qualifier the last time the two nations played in East Africa only for the result to be nullified after the Sudanese had fielded an ineligible player who was serving a suspension.
The East Africans then came to Zambia and forced a draw and this could be yet another tough and close duel.
Bafana Bafana also have an away first leg tie against Angola with the two countries meeting just weeks after they clashed in the African Championship of Nations qualifiers.
The Angolans triumphed in that occasion, just squeezing through on away goals, after they won in South Africa and then lost in their backyard.
“This will be a tough one and all the players know that,” Bafana Bafana midfielder, Bongani Zungu, told KickOff.com.
“We played a friendly against Angola in Cape Town and it was tough.
“This is the World Cup and we need to be smart and play to the best of our abilities.
“We need to continue from where we left from the Central American tour.”
Bafana Bafana drew their matches against Costa Rica and Honduras during that tour of the Americas.
Swaziland were impressive as they destroyed Djibouti in the last qualifier but their reward will be a date against the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
The Comoros, who ousted Lesotho, have a tough battle against Ghana’s Black Stars while Botswana host Mali, Madagascar take on Senegal, Mozambique host Gabon and Namibia have a date against Guinea.
Second round, first leg fixtures
· 11 November
· Mozambique v Gabon
· Sudan v Zambia
· 12 November
· Burundi v DR Congo
· Namibia v Guinea
· Benin v Burkina Faso
· Togo v Uganda
· Morocco v Equatorial Guinea
· 13 November
· Madagascar v Senegal
· Comoros v Ghana
· Kenya v Cape Verde
· Libya v Rwanda
· Angola v South Africa
· Niger v Cameroon
· Liberia v Ivory Coast
· Mauritania v Tunisia
· Swaziland v Nigeria
· 14 November
· Ethiopia v Congo Brazzaville
· Tanzania v Algeria
· Botswana v Mali
· Chad v Egypt
· Gabon v Mozambique