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One unanswered question for each of Africa's World Cup qualifiers

We now know the identity of Africa's five teams in Russia, but what do they need to improve between now and next summer?

Nigeria: Who plays in goal?

Despite their fine qualifying campaign, the Super Eagles have concerns in various positions across their team.

Abdullahi Shehu's continued improvement has done enough to end the concerns that he may not be up to the job, although the identity of the team's central striker isn't yet determined.

Nigeria have no shortage of options, but Kelechi Iheanacho's failure to make an impact since moving to Leicester City during the summer has opened the door to several alternatives.

Odion Ighalo looks to be the favourite to start following his excellent showing in the 4-0 victory over Cameroon, but tertiary options such as Anthony Nwakaeme, Aaron Samuel, Olarenwaju Kayode, Stephen Odey or Isaac Success are all still to convince.

The biggest concern, however, is in goal, where Carl Ikeme's leukaemia diagnosis denies the Eagles the services of their No 1 choice.

With Vincent Enyeama retired and Francis Uzoho still to make his international debut, Ikechukwu Ezenwa is favourite to start between the sticks.

However, a handful of nervy showings, international experience and a continuing lack of aerial conviction raise concerns about how the FC Ifeanyi Ubah man would fare against the world's finest.

Egypt: Do they have another dimension?

This Pharaohs side arguably have two problems to resolve heading into the World Cup, one of which is their greatest strength.

While sides branded as 'one-man teams' are rarely that, there is a lingering sense with Egypt that if Mohamed Salah doesn't step up, no one else will.

He scored five of their eight goals in qualifying, including decisive strikes against Uganda and Congo, and also broke the deadlock against Ghana and Burkina Faso at the Nations Cup.

Without him, or if opponents neutralise him or deny him service, Egypt can run out of ideas.

Secondly, they can struggle to tweak their intensity when the situation demands it.

In the Nations Cup final against Cameroon, they appeared down and out after the Indomitable Lions equalised, while they scored just once - through Salah - over 180 minutes against Uganda, losing the first qualifier.

A defensive approach and a counterattacking style has many merits, but if the Pharaohs fall behind, or fail to make a breakthrough, they have rarely shown they can have another gear to turn to.

Morocco: Can Khalid Boutaib trouble the world's best?

Morocco have a remarkably complete team. They didn't concede a single goal during qualification, they boast one of the continent's best midfields in Karim El Ahmadi and Mbark Boussoufa, and they can call upon technical maestros like Adel Taarabt, Sofiane Boufal (if they're trusted), Younes Belhanda or Hakim Ziyech.

The centre-forward position has been a concern for Herve Renard, with the Atlas Lions drawing a blank against the Democratic of Congo and Egypt at the AFCON, and in half of their World Cup qualifiers.

Khalid Boutaiib's fine form at Yeni Malatyaspor since signing from Strasbourg during the summer, and his hat-trick against Gabon have prompted optimism that he's the man to lead the line.

However, at 31 when the tournament rolls around, and with a career largely spent in the French lower leagues behind him, will Boutaib really strike fear into the hearts of the world's best defenders?

Tunisia: Are they strong enough in the final third?

For a team seemingly so universally unpopular, it's surprisingly hard to find a flaw in this Tunisia side.

They are looking increasingly balanced - particularly when Mohamed Amine Ben Amor takes his place in midfield - and in the likes of Youssef Msakni, Naim Sliti and Wahbi Khazri, boast technical talents who can pick apart a backline.

However, there have been occasions - notably against Burkina Faso in the Nations Cup quarter final and in their last qualifier against Libya - when they've enjoyed possession but lacked the inventiveness (or patience) to get the breakthrough.

In Gabon, they resorted to lumping the ball forward to Ahmed Akaichi or Taha Yassine Khenissi, and may find themselves relying on Msakni to summon up some magic before frustrations boil over.

Senegal: Can Aliou Cisse cut it with the very best?

The Lions of Teranga have firepower in abundance, one of Africa's finest defensive midfielders in Idrissa Gueye and one of the continent's genuine superstars in Sadio Mane.

On paper, they have the quality to emulate the quarter final appearance of their compatriots in 2002 - the legendary Senegal side that beat France and reached the final eight in their maiden World Cup appearance.

However, it remains to be seen whether they have a coach who can match the quality of Bruno Metsu.

Cisse has a wonderful array of talent to work with, but the Lions only intermittently showed their quality at the Nations Cup and should have blown Cameroon away in the quarters before losing on penalties.

Similarly, they failed to score at home against Burkina Faso in Dakar, and took 81 minutes to break down a Cape Verdean defence in Praia, and it remains to be seen whether Cisse can forge a coherent plan to ensure the West Africans make the most of their irresistible talent.

Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.


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