World Cup qualifiers: Best FIVE stadiums for play-off ties

Sona Balakhchyan
Two months after a successful 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, which produced first-time Senegal winners, African football will take center stage in late March. The continent decides which countries will represent them at Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup finals.

The draw conducted in January threw up mouth-watering ties. Senegal faces off with the same team they beat in the Afcon final, Egypt. 

There is a West African derby between Ghana and Nigeria. Recently dethroned Kings Algeria will slug it out with Cameroon, Mali against Tunisia in a repeat of the Afcon group stage match, which ended controversially as Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe blew the final whistle before 90th minute, and Morocco favorites against DR Congo.

The five teams that will emerge victorious over two legs will be in Qatar. 

CAF announced cities and venues for the games in February. The football governing body has approved ten stadiums for the games, which will draw international eyeballs. 

Here are the best five stadiums (in no particular order) approved 10. 

Moshood Abiola National Stadium 

Country: Nigeria 

Location: Abuja

Capacity: 60,491 

The $360 million worth multipurpose stadium will host the second leg between Nigeria and Ghana on March 27. Also known as Abuja National Stadium, it was opened in 2003, three years after the Nigerian government constructed it to host the 2003 African Games. It is a breathtaking and gigantic stadium designed and built by Schlaich Bergermann & Partner, its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Aside from hosting sporting events, the venue has been used for numerous religious, cultural, and social events.

In 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari renamed the stadium after politician Moshood Abiola, widely believed to have won the presidential election based on available results. Still, it was canceled by the military government of Ibrahim Babangida. The stadium has a presidential suite and viewing area, 56 corporate suites, post offices, helipad, 3000 capacity indoor sports hall, 2000 capacity gymnasium, 2000 capacity swimming pool, tennis courts, 3000 capacity hockey stadium, baseball, and softball complex.

Léopold Sédar Senghor Stadium

Country: Senegal

Location: Dakar 

Capacity: 60,000 (80,000 maximum allowed for domestic games)

This venue will host the second leg of Senegal’s tie with Egypt on March 28. Léopold Sédar Senghor Stadium was opened in 1985, almost four decades ago, and named after the first Senegalese President whose reign spanned 20 years. The multipurpose, situated in the Senegalese capital, is mainly used for football matches and is the national team’s home. ASC Jeanne d’Arc, one of the big clubs in the country, also uses the venue. The venue hosted the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations final between Ivory Coast and Ghana, which the Ivorians eventually won after a marathon penalty shootout. That same tournament saw the stadium’s record attendance of 75,000 when Senegal faced Nigeria on the group stage. The stadium has an athletics track alongside the main pitch and the requisite facilities to host rugby matches. 

Stade Olympique Hammadi Agrebi, also known as Stade November 7

Country: Tunisia

Location: Tunis

Capacity: 60,000

One of the best stadiums on the continent will be the second-leg meeting between Tunisia and Mali on March 27. The stadium is located in Rades, about 10 kilometers southeast of Tunisia’s capital Tunis. It is primarily used for football matches, hosting Tunisia national team games. Also, giants Club Africain and ES Tunis use it for major league games.

Since it’s a multipurpose facility, athletics competitions are occasionally staged there. It was built in 2001 for the Mediterranean Games.

Stade Mohammed V, Morocco

Country: Morocco

Location: Casablanca 

Capacity: 67,000

Morocco will welcome DR Congo to the venue for the second leg of the play-off tie on March 29. 

In 1955, it was initially named Stade Marcel-Cerdan after the legendary French boxer. A year later, the name was changed to reflect Morocco’s independence. Originally the venue had 30,000 people, which was increased to 90,000 in the 1970s as part of preparations for the 1983 Mediterranean Games. The stadium underwent extensive renovations in the 2000s during Morocco’s bid to host the 2010 World Cup. Seats replaced the benches, and the seating capacity was reduced from 90,000 to 67,000. 

The facility currently has a 12,000-capacity gymnasium, a 3,000-capacity Olympic-size swimming pool, a 650-square-meter media center, meeting rooms, a coaching center, and an anti-doping center. 

The Cairo International Stadium

Country: Egypt

Location: Cairo

Capacity: 75,000

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final venue will host the first leg meeting between Egypt and Senegal on March 24. The multipurpose Olympic standard facility with 75,000 spectators was formerly known as Nasser Stadium. It is located in the city of Nasr, on the northeastern outskirts of Cairo, with construction completed in 1960, the same year it was inaugurated by then-President Gamal Abd El Nasser. It was designed by Werner March, a renowned German architect credited with creating Berlin’s famous Olympia Arena. 

Before the Cairo International Stadium became an all-seat facility, it could easily accommodate 100,000 spectators and record 120,000. Aside from being home to the Pharaohs, Egyptian and African giants Al Ahly and Zamalek use the stadium. 

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