Six-time finalists Nigeria have been drawn to square up against Cape Verde, Central African Republic and Liberia in the penultimate round of the qualifying race for the 2022 Fifa World Cup finals in Qatar.
At a simple but colourful ceremony inside The Nile Ritz-Carlton in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday evening, conducted by CAF’s Director of Competitions Samson Adamu, Ivorian Clementine Toure and 1998 Fifa World Cup winner Marcel Desailly, the 40 teams remaining in the race on the African continent were drawn into 10 groups of four teams each, with Nigeria heading Group C.
Just like they will fly westward twice in their remaining campaign for a place at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Freetown, Sierra Leone and Cotonou, Benin Republic), the Eagles will fly westward twice in the race to Qatar (Praia, Cape Verde and Monrovia, Liberia).
Nigeria’s first game, coming up in October this year, will be against the Lone Star of Liberia, who reached this stage after shoving neighbours Sierra Leone in the first round.
African champions, Algeria head Group A and will have two interesting games against the Etalons of Burkina Faso with Niger Republic and Djibouti also in the pool.
Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles head Group B which also has Zambia, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea but the presence of Cameroon and Ivory Coast in Group D makes that pool most interesting. They are joined by Mozambique and Malawi.
Group E looks the most evenly set with Mali, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda – none of which had been to the Fifa World Cup previously.
Group G is also mouth-watering, as Ghana, quarter-finalists at the only Fifa World Cup finals to have been hosted on African soil, face the country that hosted that finals in 2010, South Africa as well as Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.
Certainly, Group J is similarly something to savour, as Democratic Republic of Congo, Benin Republic and Madagascar are joined by Tanzania.
Each of the 40 teams will play two matches each towards the end of this year with the remaining four matches coming up next year. The third and final round of the qualifiers will see the 10 winners of the pools drawn into five explosive home-and-away fixtures that will produce Africa’s flag-bearers in Qatar. Those knockout games come up in November 2021.
Group A: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, Djibouti
Group B: Tunisia, Zambia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea
Group C: Nigeria, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Liberia
Group D: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Malawi
Group E: Mali, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda
Group F: Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Angola
Group G: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia
Group H: Senegal, Congo, Namibia, Tog
Group I: Morocco, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Suda
Group J: DR Congo, Benin Republic, Madagascar, Tanzania