Lessons learned from the AFCON qualifiers

The race to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations continued across the continent over the weekend. Here are five lessons we learned.

It’s just a game

Every so often, an incident occurs that reminds us once again that the beautiful game is just that – a game. Sadly, this was the case this weekend as a stampede broke out in the Stade Municipal de Mahamasina in Antananarivo. The incident left at least one person dead and dozens others injured ahead of the match between Madagascar and Senegal, which ended in a 2-2 draw. It also brought back into sharp focus the need for better crowd control on the continent and in the game at large.

Egypt need Salah

For the last few months, Mohamed Salah has been embroiled in a row with the Egyptian FA. Some of the issue at the centre of this apparent tussle are said to have hampered the Pharaoh’s chances of success in their World Cup campaign in Russia. It has been suggested in some quarters that Salah might consider retiring from the national team as a consequence.

The Liverpool forward has however, continued his involvement with the team and was involved as they thrashed Niger 6-0. He missed two penalties, but still he scored twice to prove his importance to the side.

Former champions find redemption

Egypt’s victory took extra significance because they had already lost their first match in Group J, to Tunisia in June last year. They needed to win to avoid losing ground in the group, as only the team that finishes top is guaranteed a place in the next round. The situation was, however, not unique to them. Nigeria, Zambia and the Ivory Coast are also recent champions who found themselves lagging behind in their groups.

Zambia couldn’t do much to redeem their situation, as a 1-1 draw against Namibia left them third in Group K. Nigeria and the Elephants on the other hand, secured vital victories; 0-3 against Seychelles and 1-2 against Rwanda respectively.

Group F nicely poised

Results over the weekend left Group F standing as the tightest, after two rounds of matches. Ethiopia beat Sierra Leone 1-0 yesterday and a 10-man Kenya stunned Ghana by the same score line a day earlier. Those outcomes now mean all teams in the group have three points after winning one match each.

The international break next month will see Ghana face Sierra Leone home and away, as will Kenya against Ethiopia.

Wanyama the loser

Victor Wanyama was one of a number of Kenyan stars who apparently refused to turn up for national duty despite being called up by Sébastien Migné. The French coach criticised the Tottenham man’s absence but without him, the Harambee Stars went ahead to claim a critical win against one of the best sides on the continent, despite falling a man short in the second half. Were Wanyama to end up falling out with his manager, the result on Saturday will have handed an advantage to Migné.