Somalia and Djibouti national soccer teams marked a big milestone in the world of football after registering first crucial wins in the first round of Africa’s World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers that took place on Thursday and Wednesday respectively. The first leg of the preliminary rounds involving 28-lowest ranked countries were played between 3rd and 5th with the second leg scheduled for next week.
Lowly-ranked Somalia humiliated Zimbabwe 1-0 yesterday recording their first win in qualifiers after 35 years. Their first-ever win was in 1984 against their neighbours Kenya in Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. The Ocean Stars ranked number 202 out of 211 football nations by the world football governing body FIFA, have picked three draws and 8 losses in their last 11 qualifiers.
“Somalia makes history to win its first-ever FIFA World Cup qualifiers clash. Somalia beat Zimbabwe 1-0 in the first leg of the 2022 FIFA World Cup preliminary qualifier clash in Djibouti this evening,” read the statement from the Somali Football Federation.
“Congratulations to our Ocean Stars. Your victory is remarkable. You have played purposely. We are eager to receive you back home as you prepare for the second leg,” reacted the Somalia President Mohamed Farmaajo.
The match was staged in Djibouti due to security concerns in Somalia. Anwar Said Ali pulled a surprise on the visitors with a fine header with four minutes remaining to the regular time. The South Africans dominate the match for the 90 minutes, but could not utilize well their opportunities.
Bashir Hayford charges have been the poor-performing team in the continent. With the landmark win excluded, the team has managed to draw just once and lost the remaining ones in all the international matches it has taken part in between 2009 and now. Some of the huge defeats are 4-0 lose against Uganda, 6-0 defeat against Zambia and 7-0 lose against Tanzania in CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in 2009, 2010 and 2012 respectively. CECAFA is a tournament that brings together teams from East Africa and a bit of Central Africa held annually. The Ocean Stars were also humbled 5-0 by Ethiopia in 2014 World Cup qualifier.
Just like Somalia, Djibouti ranked 195 also raised the bar higher for Eswatini formerly known as Swaziland. It stunned their opponents 2-1 at Ville de Djibouti. The Djiboutians took the lead in the final minute before the break but the visitors equalized in the 56th minute. Abdi Hamza grabbed the winning goal for the Riverains de la Mer Rouge in the 76th minute.
The horn of Africa country in February hired the services of Frenchman Julien Mette to restore dignity to the team that has been losing with a margin of 5-9 goals.
“No actual targets were set, which pleased me. The President of Djibouti Football Association was realistic about things. He didn’t speak to me about qualifying for the African Cup of Nations, the African Nations Championship or the World Cup. All he wanted was to stop losing 5-0 and 6-0 and I said I would bring to him that dignity,” Julien Mette revealed to FIFA.COM.
Going by the current results the team is moving in the right direction. They narrowly lost 1-0 and 4-3 against Ethiopia in the 2020 African Nations Championship and pulled a surprise 1-0 win over Somalia in a friendly match.
African football giants like Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal and the rest should be wary of these two countries. They began from scratch and they are heading somewhere in the future. It will not be a surprise if we see either Somalia or Djibouti cracking the bigwigs, but will they replicate the first leg results during the return match next week?
By Samuel Ouma