‘Nigeria won’t be paired against top ranked African countries’
When the draws for the qualifiers of the Russia 2018 World Cup are made in St. Petersburg on July 25 the Super Eagles will not be paired against any of the African teams in the continent’s top 20 bracket, according to reports from world football governing body, FIFA.
In fact, all the top 20 ranked African teams will avoid each other in the first and second qualifying rounds for the event.
A FIFA spokesman in Zurich said yesterday that the draws in the Russian city are subject to approval at an eve-of-ceremony meeting.
Zimbabwe is already out of the running for Russia 2018 as they were disqualified for failing to pay former national coach, Brazilian Jose Claudinei Georgini.
South Sudan are the lone debutants and must be hoping for more success than when they first played in the Africa Cup of Nations two years ago and suffered a 5-0 hiding from Mozambique.
The first two rounds consist of home-and-away ties decided by goal aggregate, and the October and November matches will trim the field from 53 hopefuls to 20.
Among those expected to reach the third and final qualifying stage will be number one ranked African national team, Algeria and 2015 Africa Cup of Nations winners Cote d’Ivoire.
Of the 13 countries that have represented Africa at the World Cup, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tunisia, Senegal, Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa are within the top 20.
But Togo, Morocco and Angola are not, meaning they will be unseeded in the second-round draw, raising the possibility of a showdown against a giant.
FIFA used the July rankings to determine the seedings and the 26-team first round consists of teams placed 28 and lower.
First-round matches are scheduled to be staged between October 5 and 13 and another nine-day period – November 9-17 – has been set aside for the second round.
Teams reaching the third round will be split into five groups of four at a separate draw and the winners after six-matchday series go to Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
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