No problems for Nigeria, Egypt ruthless, Bafana make statement; what did we learn from Africa's World Cup qualifiers?

Kelechi Iheanacho scored two goals as Nigeria recorded two wins from two games as Africa kicked off the second round of World Cup qualifiers for Qatar 2022. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images

We've experienced a fascinating start to round two of Africa's World Cup qualifying campaign, with a coup d'etat in Guinea, a change of guard in Egypt, and coronavirus disruption across the continent.

As the curtain falls on the international window, ESPN reviews the big talking points from the first two matchdays of Africa's group stage.

Guinea: Military coup on the road to Qatar

They say that football and politics should never meet, but in Africa the sport constantly bisects with politics in a way that cannot be avoided nor ignored. Rarely, however, do political events in a country have such a swift and decisive impact on major sporting fixtures, as was the case when Morocco flew to Guinea for their matchday two fixture against the Syli Nationale.

The Atlas Lions trained at the Conakry National Stadium on Saturday, yet 24 hours later they were facing evacuation from the Guinean capital after a coup in the West African country.

Following gunfire in the city, residents in the Kaloum district had been told to stay indoors and national President Alpha Conde had been filmed in the custody of the insurgents; the Confederation of African Football had little choice but to postpone the fixture on Sunday evening.

The Morocco team had been conscious of the unfolding events -- midfielder Sofyan Amrabat had shared footage of military forces in the streets on Instagram, and the team had been confined to their accommodation -- before they were eventually allowed to depart from the rebel-run airport late on Sunday.

"We experienced very difficult moments that we never imagined we would experience," Nayef Aguerd told the Royal Moroccan Football Federation website. "We were really scared, but security at the hotel was tight."

Guinea, of course, must now focus on a transition to a new government and restoration of the constitution, while the players returning to Europe may well reflect on a situation that could have been much hairier than it ultimately proved.

Egypt: Pharaohs ruthless after stuttering start

On paper, Egypt aren't in too bad a position after their opening two Group F fixtures. They downed Angola 1-0 at home in their opening fixture -- admittedly, a stodgy, turgid affair -- and followed that up with a point from a come-from-behind 1-1 draw in Gabon.

Avoiding defeat in Central Africa, coupled with the Panthers' own loss away in Libya, means Egypt can take firm control of the group when they face their North African neighbours home and away in the next international break.

However, the results weren't enough for unpopular head coach Hossam El-Badry to keep his job; against a backdrop of discontent within the squad, he was relieved of his duties in the aftermath of the draw in Franceville.

Mohamed Salah offered his support for the departing coach on his Facebook page -- writing a note of thanks to El-Badri - but the coach otherwise had won few admirers with his cautious selections and unadventurous playing style.

Mohamed Mostafa's angry celebrations after coming off the bench to score against Gabon in the 90th minute, was a thinly veiled message of his own frustration at the previous regime's circumspect approach.

The Egyptian FA moved quickly to appoint Carlos Queiroz, who guided South Africa to the 2002 World Cup only to resign on the eve of the tournament. Queiroz certainly has experience of attempting to get the best out of elite attacking talent, given his time at Manchester United and Real Madrid, but will Salah and co. benefit in time to reach Qatar?

Cameroon: Early blow for Indomitable Lions

Perhaps no African giants are under as much pressure to reach the next round of qualifying as Cameroon. The Indomitable Lions are Africa's most successful side in World Cup qualifying, having reached the tournament seven times, but they missed out last time around -- only the second time they weren't present since 1986 - and they can ill-afford another absence.

Similarly, Toni Conceicao's tenure has been less than convincing, and he desperately has to demonstrate to Fecafoot that he can forge a winning team from this collection of players before Cameroon host the Africa Cup of Nations early next year. It would be a bitter humiliation for the Lions to be out of the running for the World Cup by the time they welcome Africa to the Nations Cup on home soil.

They have their work cut out now after a bruising week, as the optimism of a 2-0 victory over Malawi was undone by a damaging 2-1 defeat away at the Ivory Coast on Monday.

It was imperative that the five-time African champions avoided defeat against the group's other heavyweights, and the loss represented a major missed opportunity considering the Elephants were without Franck Kessie, Nicolas Pepe, Wilfried Zaha and Gervinho.


Sebastien Haller torments Cameroon's defense on second goal

Sebastien Haller's second goal doubles Ivory Coast's lead over Cameroon as he charges past the back line and finishes brilliantly.

South Africa: Broos begins with a bang

Hugo Broos achieved success with Cameroon, the Belgian coach having (somehow) masterminded the Lions' unlikely victory at the 2017 African Cup of Nations in neighbouring Gabon.

He's now following in Queiroz's footsteps as South Africa coach, having been appointed by SAFA as Molefi Ntseki's successor in May, and his first task is to pick the team up after their failure to reach the Nations Cup.

He began his tenure with a stuttering 0-0 draw at Zimbabwe but more than made up for that with Monday's 1-0 victory over Ghana, which was Bafana Bafana's first statement victory over an African heavyweight since they eliminated Egypt from the Afcon in 2019; the result suggests Broos's methods are being accepted by his new charges.

Bongokuhle Hlongwane, still making his first steps in international football at 21, is emblematic of this new-look Bafana side, who capitalised on a weak and disjointed Ghana to boost their hopes of progression.

"I'm very proud and happy from what I saw on the pitch of my team," Broos said after his side had defeated Ghana. "We made a big progress in one week from what I saw in Zimbabwe.

"[Against Ghana] I saw a team with confidence, who played a very good game. There was determination, there was a will to win, there was discipline and that is what I like."

Algeria: Fennecs demolish Djibouti, extend undefeated streak

Heading into round two of Africa's World Cup qualifying campaign, Algeria appeared to be the best-placed team to reach Qatar. They're Africa's reigning champions, although that hasn't always been a good barometer of who represents the continent at the World Cup, while they were also handed a generous group-stage draw.

Beyond that, this Fennecs squad is riding an undefeated streak that stretches back to Nov. 2018, and under Djamel Belmadi the players look like they've forgotten how to lose.

First up, they demolished poor Djibouti 8-0, prompting the Riverains' French coach Julien Mette to hit back at those mocking the minnows on social media. "Let the scoffers and the know-it-all-better-than-the-others make great careers [for themselves] on Football Manager," he wrote on his personal Facebook page.

Algeria's second bout -- in Burkina Faso -- was always going to be their sternest assignment, and the greatest threat to their undefeated streak until they take on Ivory Coast in Douala in their final Africa Cup of Nations group stage game next year.

They may not have taken maximum points after Abdoul Tapsoba's second-half equaliser cancelled out Sofiane Feghouli's opener, but the draw keeps Algeria in top spot in Group A and firmly on course for Qatar.


Kelechi Iheanacho nets first-half brace for Nigeria

Nigeria takes a 2-0 lead into halftime of its World Cup qualifier vs. Liberia thanks to two goals from Kelechi Iheanacho.

Nigeria: No Premier League stars, no problem for Eagles

After Algeria, Nigeria looked best placed of all Africa's heavyweights to advance to the third round of qualifying after the draw was made, and the opening international break of the campaign will only have fuelled that optimism.

The Super Eagles have suffered from slow starts in previous qualifying campaigns, but there are no such problems for Gernot Rohr's side this time around, as they dispatched Liberia 2-0 at home on Friday through a double from Kelechi Iheanacho.

The away game against Cape Verde Islands was always going to be a much tougher assignment. Not only would the Super Eagles be without their home comforts, but they would also have to make do without half-a-dozen starters due to the ban on U.K.-based players travelling to 'red list' countries due to coronavirus restrictions.

Facing tricky opponents anyway, how would Nigeria fare without both of their first-choice central defenders, their anchorman, Wilfred Ndidi, or the spark provided by Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi? Supporters needn't have worried, as they bounced back after falling behind, to a goal by Dylan Tavares, to win 2-1 after Victor Osimhen 's equaliser and Rocha Santos's own goal.

It won't always be this easy, and Rohr is still facing grumbling from supporters who crave a more expansive style, but the Eagles are proving resilient and able to overcome the various obstacles put in their path.

Ahmed Musa claiming his 100th international cap for the West African giants -- the country's third player to reach the milestone -- capped a successful week for the Super Eagles.