Champions Egypt get soft African Nations Cup qualifying draw

Daily Star Egypt Staff
4 Min Read

CAIRO: The 2008 African Nations Cup qualifying draw treated newly crowned champions Egypt and runners-up Ivory Coast generously. Egypt are in Group 2 with minnows Botswana, Burundi and Mauritania and the Pharaohs should finish first by a wide margin and secure a berth at the 16-nation tournament in Ghana. Ivory Coast, losers after a penalty shootout against hosts Egypt in the final two weeks ago, are unlikely to experience difficulty topping Group 1 opponents Djibouti, Gabon and Madagascar. Beaten 2006 semi-finalists Nigeria and Senegal have no grounds for complaint either after the 47 entrants were drawn into 11 groups of four nations and one of three here Thursday. Nigeria are in Group 3 and come up against Lesotho, Niger and Uganda, who will attempt to reach the biennial competition for the first time since finishing runners-up behind hosts Ghana 28 years ago. It is hard to envisage Burkina Faso, Mozambique or Tanzania seriously troubling Senegal in Group 7 as the west Africans showed in Egypt they are regaining the form that propelled them to the 2002 World Cup. Cameroon and Tunisia, who made quarter-finals exits in Egypt after shootouts, are other leading football nations who can start checking airline timetables to Accra. Fortune favored Cameroon, who could probably field a reserve team and still prove too strong in Group 5 for Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Rwanda, a team that has not built on the promise that took them to the 2004 Nations Cup. Only unpredictable Sudan will cause much concern for 2004 hosts and winners Tunisia in Group 4 with Indian Ocean island states Mauritius and Seychelles completing the line-up. Guinea, surprise 2006 quarter-finalists at the expense of South Africa and Zambia, will be wary of Algeria in Group 8 as the once-mighty Desert Foxes have been too bad to be true lately. Gambia and Cape Verde are also in the pool. Democratic Republic of Congo, who made the last eight in Egypt at the expense of 2006 World Cup qualifiers Angola, should get their toughest opposition in Group 10 from Libya with Ethiopia and Namibia likely also-rans. Group 9 brings together Benin, Mali, Sierra Leone and Togo, another shock qualifier for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and this west Africa mini-league is hard to call. Kenya, whose national team has suffered as officials squabble endlessly over who should run the sport, still appear more capable of extending Angola in Group 6 than Eritrea or Swaziland. South Africa had a disastrous 2006 tournament, failing to score in losses to Guinea, Tunisia and Zambia, and Bafana Bafana (The Boys) have been drawn against the latter in Group 11 with Chad and Congo the other contenders. Zimbabwe dreams of a third consecutive appearance at the showcase of African football received a jolt when drawn with defensively formidable Morocco in a three-team group completed by Malawi. The first series of 23 qualifiers will be staged over the weekend of Sept. 1-3 and the last one year later with the 12 group winners and the best three second-placed finishers joining Ghana at the finals. AFP

Share This Article
Leave a comment