Thursday, October 23, 2008

World Cup 2010: Africa Round 3 Draw

Further to our recent World Cup 2010 Update, here's news of the draw for Round 3 of the Africa qualifying tournament which took place yesterday (the draw, that is - not the qualifying tournament).

Sepp Blatter was on hand to make sure everything went to plan at FIFA headquarters in Zurich where the remaining twenty teams were allocated to one of the five groups in this last stage of the competition.

Here's how the draw panned out - top seeded teams are shown in orange:

As ever, we're contractually bound to indicate the 'Group of Death' © at the outset, and here it's Group 1 featuring 2008 African Nations Cup runners-up Cameroon along with Togo, Morocco and Alain Giresse's Gabon team.

Gabon are making something of a comeback having failed to qualify for the African Nations Cup in five of the last six attempts, their last appearance being in 2000. Since Giresse took the reins two years ago, however, the Black Panthers have turned things around and qualified for Round 3 of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers having finished level on points with Group 5 winners Ghana.

Cameroon's German coach Otto Pfister was understandably wary of the opposition his team faces in the last round, commenting "It is indeed a very difficult group. We are the favourites on paper, but this doesn't mean too much… Togo have two or three really good players, and of course they have the experience of being part of Germany 2006. Morocco has great potential and also a very good coach. Gabon have proved lately how strong they are and what they are capable of. We need to prepare very seriously for this group."

According to the FIFA World Rankings, Group 4 is the weakest group of the five. It contains the winners and runners-up from Group 10 in the last round, Mali and Sudan along with Ghana and Benin - both group winners from the last round.

In Group 2, Nigeria will be particularly keeping an eye on the ever-present threat of Tunisia while in Group 3, African champions Egypt will be more than well aware of the resurgence of Algeria. Having missed the last two African Nations Cup competitions and the last five World Cups, Rabah Saadane will be keen to make the most of this rare chance for success.

The draw for Group 4 looks deceptively kind to Ivory Coast, but two of their opponents, Guinea and Burkina Faso won their Round 2 groups. As Senegal and Angola will tell you, reputation counts for nothing when the level of competition is so high, and the team from Ivory Coast won't for a moment be thinking they'll have a straight run through to the Finals in South Africa.

Speaking of which, those all-important Round 3 matches begin in March 2009 and last all the way through to November, a month before the draw for the 2010 World Cup Finals. As ever, Some People Are On The Pitch will be there to bring you all the latest news, match previews and lots more besides.

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