By Kayode Ogundare:
Matchday 4 of the 2018 World Cup qualification (Africa) threw up some pleasant results which particularly changed the complexion and dynamics of Group B which comprise Nigeria, Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria.
Against all expectations, the Zambians went all the way to Blida to record a shock 1-0 win over the Fennecs of Algeria, thanks to a 67th minute goal by Patson Daka. This was barely 24hrs after Nigeria’s Super Eagles had gone to force an impressive 1-1 draw against reigning African champions, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in yaounde.
Suddenly, Cameroon and Algeria are eliminated from the race to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia and Nigeria and Zambia are left to fight for the single ticket from the group.
So, a lot of foorball fans have asked, how does that away win affect Nigeria’s hope of attending a sixth Wold Cup?
It’s really simple.
Zambia have improved tremendously since their opening day 2-1 loss to Nigeria in Ndola. Since then they have garnered seven poinst from three games, drawing away in Cameroon before beating Algeria home and away.
Nigeria, on the other hand, have led brilliantly from day one, racking up three wins in a row before the draw in Yaounde last Monday.
Now, Nigeria lead the group with 10 points with Zambia in second with seven. Both teams have two games left. Nigeria go away to Algeria on the last day while Zambia will play Cameroon at home in Ndola which makes the meeting between both sides in uyo on October 7 the ticket decider.
If Nigeria win, they’ll get to an unassailable 13 points while Zambia can only finish on 10 at best. A win for Zambia in Uyo will mean both countries will be tied on 10 points and wait until the last day to discover who wins the ticket.
However, a draw between both countries in Uyo means Nigeria will get to 11 points and Zambia on eight with the last match to play.
If Nigeria lose away in Algeria and Zambia beat Cameroon at home in Ndola, both teams will end up on 11 points each.
And this is where FIFA will step in to decide who gets the ticket between both teams by using it’s tie-breaker as follows:
In league format, the ranking of teams in each group is based on the following criteria (regulations Articles 20.6 and 20.7):
1- Points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss)
2- Overall goal difference
3- Overall goals scored
4- Points in matches between tied teams
5- Goal difference in matches between tied teams
6- Goals scored in matches between tied teams
7- Away goals scored in matches between tied teams (if the tie is only between two teams in home-and-away league format)
8- Fair play points
9- First yellow card: minus 1 point
10- indirect red card (second yellow card): minus 3 points
11- direct red card: minus 4 points
12- yellow card and direct red card: minus 5 points
13 – Drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee
Using the current table as it stands now, to wit:
CAF Qualification:: 3rd round: group B
P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Nigeria 4 3 1 0 10 3 7 10
2 Zambia 4 2 1 1 6 4 2 7
3 Cameroon 4 0 3 1 3 7 -4 3
4 Algeria 4 0 1 3 3 8 -5 1
Game of IFs
If it ends on 11 points apiece, Nigeria will still go through if they maintain the healthy goal difference which currently stands at +7 to Zambia’s +2.
If, by whatever means the Zambians are able to equal the goals difference, Nigeria can still go through with a comfortable goals scored which is currently 10 compared to Zambia’s 6.
If, by whatever means the Zambians are able to equal the number of goals scored by beating Cameroon silly while hoping Nigeria lose scandalously to Algeria, the Super Eagles can still go through due to number of direct points between them and the Chipolopolo. Three points from the away win in Zambia plus another one point from the hypothetical draw in Uyo in October will give Nigeria four points as against one for the Zambians.
However, if Zambia win in Uyo and both teams get the same results in their respective games against Algeria and Cameroon on the final day, it will now depend on who had the better goals difference in the two games played in Ndola and Uyo.
If both teams are still tied on goals difference in games between them, FIFA will now use actual number of goals scored in the two games between them.
The Real Deal Breaker
We have been looking at tie-breakers as per FIFA rules but the real deal breaker would be an outright win for Nigeria in Uyo. If that is done, then there will not be a need for all the big grammars and everybody can return their calculators to where they came from.
Let Nigeria play for an outright win but a draw will not be an outright doom.
I hope your fears are allayed now. Up Super Eagles!