KwesÃ©ESPN picks out the five biggest African disappointments of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Marc Wilmots was appointed by the Ivory Coast charged with helping the Elephants bounce back from their dismal Africa Cup of Nations title defence.
Unfortunately for the Elephants, the Belgian coach just oversaw a further slump for the West African giants, and his job now appears to be under threat.
Despite boasting one of the most talented squads in the continent, Wilmots oversaw just one win in four qualifiers this year – away at Gabon -and fell to home defeats against both the Panthers and, decisively, against Morocco and former coach Herve Renard on Saturday.
The Ivorians’ nervy and limp showing in that contest means that the Elephants end their run of three consecutive World Cup showings, meaning that some of the continent’s top stars will be watching on from the outside next summer.
Algeria‘s qualifying campaign lurched from disappointment to disappointment, and they were a shoo-in for this list.
Les Fennecs parted ways with Milovan Rajevac after their 1-1 draw with Cameroon, and both of his successors — Georges Leekens and Lucas Alcaraz — had been dispatched before the draw with Nigeria this weekend.
Algeria have enough top talents to bounce back from their campaign, but rarely have such a talented collection of African talents bombed so heavily in the qualifiers.
Ghana: The Black Stars parted ways with Avram Grant and reappointed Kwesi Appiah after the Nations Cup, hoping that the local coach would help Ghana improve on a sluggish start to their campaign.
While Appiah didn’t actually lose a match, his failure to beat Congo-Brazzaville at home in September proved costly, even if they did bounce back in the return fixture.
The coach opted to axe the Ayew Brothers and a handful of other key names as he looked to salvage the qualifying campaign, but a draw away against Uganda wasn’t enough…even before Egypt won at home against Congo.
There are a few reasons for optimism – notably Thomas Partey and Richmond Boakye – but it will be intriguing to see whether Appiah can bring together the various disparate elements of his national pool for the 2019 Nations Cup campaign.
South Africa: Even though Bafana Bafana were, in principle, still in the running for Russia until their defeat by Senegal this weekend, South Africa can hardly look back on their qualifying campaign with pride.
One of their two victories – against Senegal – was subsequently annulled due to the corrupt refereeing of Joseph Lamptey, while they were also guilty away in Burkina Faso – in their first qualifier – when they conceded a late Banou Diawara equaliser to set the tone.
The nadir, surely, was the double-header against Cape Verde, when Bafana took the lead then capitulated in Praia, before falling to a 2-1 defeat in Durban.
Stuart Baxter has his work cut out amidst growing criticism.
Congolese nerve: The Democratic Republic of Congo were drawn in the easiest qualifying group, and won both of their first two matches – smashing four past Libya in their opening fixture.
It all looked good for the Leopards as they sought to end their over-four-decade absence from the global high table.
Their campaign unravelled during their double-header against Tunisia, when they lost their advantage in the group and ceded the initiative in the group.
They dominated much of the match in Rades but were let down in front of goal and fell to a 2-1 defeat. In the return match, in Kinshasa, Florent Ibenge’s side tore into a 2-0 lead and provisionally took top spot in the group.
However, they capitulated in front of their own fans, conceding two goals in three second-half minutes as Tunisia denied them all three points.
They faced an uphill struggle from there.