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Some teams had taken care to validate their qualification for the final phase of the 2022 African Cup of Nations (CAN) even before the last two days, spread between March 24 and 30: Algeria, the defending champion, Senegal, finalist in 2019, Cameroon, automatically qualified as the organizing country, but which nevertheless took part in the qualifications, Mali and Tunisia. The last two days made it possible to (almost) completely refine the list of finalists: the Sierra Leone – Benin match was postponed to June, due to an imbroglio concerning positive tests for Covid-19 and contested by the Beninese.
- The adults (almost) all at the rendezvous
The best African selections were overall at the meeting of the qualifications. Apart from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Africa, two former CAN winners, no selection belonging to the top of the basket of continental football has missed the last turn. Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire, all former title holders, have justified their status, without really suffering. They were joined by Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau Zimbabwe, Mauritania already present in Egypt, as well as by Burkina Faso and Gabon, regulars of the phases, and who make their return after missing the big Egyptian raout in 209.
- The DRC and South Africa, the big absentees
The elimination of the Leopards of the DRC will remain as one of the sensations of the last two days. Quarter-finalists in 2019, the Congolese sank in Gabon (0-3), on the penultimate day. In his defense, Christian N’Sengi Biembe, their coach, was deprived of many players, including Cédric Bakambu, his best striker. The DRC ended on a slightly more positive note by dominating The Gambia (1-0) in Kinshasa, but that will not spare it a big domestic cleaning. The coach, already contested for several months, is increasingly threatened.
Constant Omari, the powerful president of the Congolese Football Federation (Fecofa) since 2003, and also targeted by many critics, has announced that he will not seek a new term. As for South Africa, also quarter-finalist in 2019, they gave in to Sudan (0-2) on the last day, when one point was enough for them. The Bafana Bafana have fallen from a height. The sanction was quick to fall: the director general of the South African Football Federation, Teboho Motlanthe, announced Wednesday that the coach Molefi Ntseki was sacked.
- The Comoros and The Gambia, the two novelties
CAN 2019 allowed Burundi, Madagascar and Mauritania to make their first appearance at this level. In Cameroon in 2022, it will be the turn of the Comoros and The Gambia to play a final phase for the first time in their history. The Comorians validated their qualification thanks to a draw obtained in Moroni against Togo (0-0, March 25), and no one will blame them for having fallen heavily in Egypt (0-4) four days later. The Coelacanths, affiliated with CAF and the International Football Federation (FIFA) since 2005, have made notable progress over the past seven years and since the appointment of Amir Abdou, a coach who has radically changed the philosophy of a team previously subscribed to defeats.
The Gambia, long confined to anonymity, has been on the rise since the arrival on the sidelines of Tom Saintfiet (48 years old) in July, a colorful Belgian coach, notably passing through Yemen, Bangladesh, Malawi, Trinidad and Tobago, Ethiopia and Malta! At the head of a heterogeneous team, from which emerge in particular the promising striker from Bologna (Italy, Serie A) Musa Barrow (22 years old) and the experienced Pa Modou Jagne (31 years old) – paradoxically unemployed for several months – , the Flemish has managed to make Gambia a selection that we now take seriously. The click occurred in June 2019, during his victories in friendly matches against Morocco (2-1) and Guinea (1-0).
- Ethiopia, Sudan, Malawi, Cape Verde and Equatorial Guinea return
Madagascar, revelation of CAN 2019, where the Baréa reached the quarter-finals against Tunisia (0-3), will not see Cameroon, while a success against Niger was enough for their happiness. Held in check (0-0), they give way to Ethiopia, whose last appearance at this level dates back to 2013. The East Africans will also be accompanied by their Sudanese neighbor, since the team coached by the Frenchman Hubert Velud eliminated South Africa. Sudan had not participated in a final tournament since 2012.
We must go back even further (2010) to find a trace of Malawi, who had left the tournament on the evening of the first round, not without having beaten Algeria (3-0) before packing. Further west of the continent, Cape Verde and Equatorial Guinea have also ended a somewhat shorter wait. The two selections had only missed the last two editions. If Sierra Leone were to eliminate Benin in June, it will return to the final stages after a twenty-six-year eclipse.
The 23 qualified: Cameroon, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Comoros, Malawi, Cape Verde, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Gabon and Sudan.