World Cup draw boost for Nigeria, other African giants

Super Eagles

The top 13 ranked African football nations received a boost Friday when the draw procedure for the 2018 World Cup qualifying draws in Russia was unveiled.

Each of them gets a first-round bye before facing one of the weaker national teams on the continent in the second round this November.

And victories in the home-and-away ties would secure places in the 20-nation third round from which the five group winners qualify for the World Cup to be hosted by Russia.

Algeria top the African rankings and the other top 13 countries are Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tunisia, Senegal, Cameroon, Congo, Cape Verde, Egypt, Nigeria, Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali.

Africa is among the continents whose World Cup qualifying draws will be made Saturday (1800 local time, 1500 GMT) at the Konstantin Palace in Russian second city Saint Petersburg.

Among those who will assist with the draw is retired Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o, one of the greatest footballers produced by Africa.

Eto’o was capped 117 times by the ‘Indomitable Lions’, scored 56 goals and made his farewell World Cup appearance at the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

Zimbabwe are the only one of the 54 Confederation of African Football (CAF) members who will not take part in the draw.

The cash-strapped national football association of the southern Africa state did not pay a severance package to former coach Brazilian Jose Claudinei Georgini and were barred by world football governing body FIFA.

The 26 lowest-ranked countries go into the first-round draw, with home-and-away ties this October producing 13 overall winners.

Those qualifiers will be paired with the top 13 sides for home-and-away ties during November with group-stage slots up for grabs.

Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, South Africa, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Rwanda — ranked 14 to 20 — are in a separate pot.

And their opponents will come from Togo, Morocco, Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, Benin and Libya, the countries ranked immediately below them.

Morocco are the team to avoid even though the last of four World Cup appearances by the north African kingdom was 17 years ago in France.

Coached by 1986 World Cup goalkeeper Badou Zaki the Atlas Lions squad includes Bayern Munich defender Mehdi Benatia and regular-scoring Granada striker Youssef El-Arabi.

The winners of these seven ties also secure places in the six-matchday group stage, scheduled to kick-off in October 2016 and end during November 2017.

A separate draw will split the 20 second-round winners into five groups and each mini-league winner goes to Russia.

 

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