Djibouti have emerged as big winners of the round after making their first-ever appearance in the group phase of qualification. The Shoremen of the Red Sea beat Swaziland 2-1 on aggregate to progress and they will be very proud of this achievement. Coach Julien Mette once said that his mission was merely to ensure that Djibouti ‘lost with dignity’ but he will be more than happy they have gone a step further.
The Horn of Africa nation have not been known for their footballing prowess but they will have a lot of positives to take away from this round of qualifiers. They won the first leg against Zimbabwe to register their first-ever win in a World Cup qualifier. They will be disappointed that they could not qualify for the next round after losing out in the last minute in the second leg. From here on they can build on what they have in anticipation of future tournaments.
Rwanda performance during this qualifiers will go down in history as one of their best-ever performance after seeing off Seychelles with a 10-0 aggregate. The first leg away to Seychelles went in favour of Rwanda who won 3-0 but it was the return leg that took everyone by surprise. A brace each from skipper Jacques Tuyisenge and Meddie Kagere topped up individual strikes from Yannick Mukunzi, Djihad Bizimana, and Muhadjiri Hakizimana as the Rwandese romped through.
This was the standout fixture in the World Cup qualifiers as the Seychelles allowed in ten goals over two fixtures against Rwanda, including a 7-0 away defeat. Both sides are clearly not known for their footballing exploits and that should make the defeat even harder for Seychelles. They will need to go back to the drawing board and improve their structures if they are to compete at this level in the future.
The Gambia were eliminated by Angola after finding themselves on the wrong side of 3-1 scoreline during their encounter. They lost the first leg by a single goal in front of their own fans but the return leg was more entertaining as they managed to score. However, that would be the only positive they would take from the fixture as Angola rallied to take the lead and ensure that they qualified for the next round.
Burundi were eliminated form the World Cup qualifies through penalties after managing to draw 2-2 on aggregate with Tanzania. Saido Berahino failed to inspire his side despite being the most decorated player for both sides during the encounter and his misery was compounded as he missed from the spot in the shootout. The Burundians have been on an upward trend and this will set them back but the Zulte Waregem striker will need to do more, especially when turning out for his country.