2022 World Cup playoff: DR Congo vs. Morocco
As the country was called, then Zaire was the first Sub-Saharan African team to qualify for the Mundial in 1978 but failed to train again. The Leopards needed a controversial penalty and another goal in the last round of the group stages to beat Benin 2-0. To pick a place in the playoffs.
DR Congo was absent from the 24 countries in Cameroon for the AFCON 2021 as they failed to qualify from a group that had Gabon, Angola, and The Gambia. Congolese fans who have been starved of tournament football since the 2019 AFCON welcomed the World Cup qualification.
Hector Cuper’s prime target when he took over the DR Congo job in May 2021 was to guide the Leopards to a World Cup berth, and that would be quite possible if they managed to get past Morocco. Cuper has a quality squad to seal a spot at the Mundial in the Gulf region in November – Dieumerci Mbokani, Chancel Mbemba Mangulu, Gael Kakuta Theo Bongonda, Cedric Bakambu, Christian Luyindama are all available. Morocco had a clean sweep in the qualifying group stage round after recording a 100% winning rate. They won all six matches against Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and Sudan.
The Atlas Lions scored 20 goals and conceded just once as they amassed 18 points – more than any other country across that period. Morocco hoped to translate the scintillating form at the AFCON 2021 by going for the ultimate. However, they exited the tournament in the quarter-finals losing to Egypt.
Vahid Halilhodzic’s tenure will immediately end if the Atlas Lions fail to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar later in the year. The impasse between Halilhodzic and star man Hakim Ziyech continues as the Chelsea player has announced his retirement from the national team. The Bosnian gaffer left out Ziyecht of Morocco’s squad for the AFCON tourney in Cameroon, leading to his quitting.
Sofian Chakla and Sofiane Boufal are suspended for two matches for “their violent behavior” against Egypt at the AFCON. They will not be playing for the playoff games against the Leopards. Ajax fullback Noussair Mazraoui is expected in Halilhodzic’s squad to face DR Congo following his remarkable season in the Eredivisie. He has five goals and two assists for Ajax this campaign. Mazraoui made his last appearance for the Maghrebian side in November 2020 against the Central Africa Republic in an AFCON qualifier.
Morocco has faced the Congolese on three occasions in all competitions; they have won once, drawn once, and lost once. Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa will host the first leg encounter on Saturday, March 26, 2022, kick-off at 13:00 GMT.
The second leg of this crucial fixture will take place at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, at 19:00 GMT.
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