African Championships: no surprises in the early going

The African Championships for both men and women got under way in Morocco this week. Three of the five match days have been played, and the results have been rather predictable. But, of course, the ‘serious business’ will come next week, when the direct battles for World Championship slots and places in the Olympic qualifying tournaments will take place.

On the men’s side, the top three teams qualify for the 2013 World Championship in Spain, the winner also qualifies directly for the Olympic Games in London, and the runner-up will be participating in a qualifying tournament for the Olympics. Among the women, Angola has already qualified for at least a place in the Olympic qualifying, on the basis of their placement in the World Championship last month. If they now become African champions, they will be directly qualified for London, with the runner-up going to a qualifying tournament. Any other team beating Angola would, of course, obtain the Olympic slot.

The men initially play in two groups of six teams each and the women have two groups of five team. The top four teams in each group play ‘cross-over’ quarterfinals. In men’s group A, Tunisia and the home team Morocco already qualified for the quarterfinals by winning their first three games. The same is the situation for Egypt and Algeria in group B, so the four North Africans seem to retain their top ranking. In Group A, the two Congos seem poised to grab the other two slots, although Senegal might put up a fight in the final group game. In group B, it seems likely that Angola and Cameroon will be able to keep Cote d’Ivoire and Burundi behind them.

Among the women, in recent years Cote d’Ivoire has been the main rival to Angola, but the results in the recent World Championship suggest that Tunisia is the up and coming team with a genuine chance to compete for the chance to be in London. Both Cote d’Ivoire and Tunisia have matched the expectations so far. The best bet for the remaining semifinal slot may be the Congo. We will endeavor to come back with further updates next week.