The 20 teams left standing in Africa’s World Cup qualifying programme will learn their fates for the third round on Friday when the draw is made at Caf’s Cairo HQ.
The seedings have finally been settled after several controversial twists and turns, leaving the continent’s would-be top five teams all set to avoid each other in Pot One, with the next 15 best sides accommodating Pots Two to Four.
With Africa still only afforded five World Cup places, competition will be as fierce as ever, with the spread of teams across the four pots guaranteeing a series of heavyweight clashes and tantalising schedules when the qualifiers begin.
Pot One features African champions the Cote d’Ivoire, Cup of Nations 2015 finalists Ghana and Africa’s top ranked team in Fifa’s world rankings Algeria, who currently come in at 32nd.
This trio can make a firm claim to be Africa’s top three, and will all be broadly confident that they will be among the continent’s representatives in Russia.
Algeria and Cote d’Ivoire boast almost unparalleled wealth, and even if the former are still yet to appoint a long-term successor for Christian Gourcuff and the latter are yet to truly find their identity since Michel Dussuyer replaced Herve Renard, none of the chasing pack will relish being drawn alongside either of these two behemoths.
For the first time since the 1990s, the Cote d’Ivoire will be heading into a World Cup qualifying campaign as the continent’s champions and their longer term ambition will surely be to escape the group stage at the global showpiece for the first time in their history.
Avram Grant has faced amusing grumbles from home after a handful of underwhelming results, but has overseen steady progress with the Black Stars and will surely feel his side are well equipped to reach their fourth consecutive World Cup.
The teams waiting nervously in Pots Two down will surely feel that their best chances of reaching Russia is to be drawn with either Tunisia or Senegal, the two weaker sides in the top pot.
Senegal enjoy a 100 per cent record so far in Cup of Nations 2017 qualifying—admittedly in a fairly easy group—but they were found wanting at the 2015 Afcon are yet to prove that they are the kind of balanced outfit that can compete against the continent’s top sides consistently.
431 total views, 2 views today