By Tosin Omojola
The Preliminary Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup was held at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg today, and Africa’s 53 hopefuls have had their path to the tournament mapped out.
The 26 lowest-ranked teams have been paired for playoffs in Round One, and the winners will advance to play the 13 highest ranked teams in Round Two. A further seven pairings for Round Two will complete the 20 teams to advance into the group stage (Round Three).
Reigning African champions Ivory Coast will face either Liberia or Guinea-Bissau, while AFCON runners-up Ghana must get past either Comoros or Lesotho. Nigeria’s Super Eagles face either Djibouti or Swaziland
North African heavyweights Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria will each face one team from these respective pairings: Chad/Sierra Leone, South Sudan/Mauritania and Tanzania/Malawi.
In the seven pairings which have already been determined for Round Two, the most intriguing ties see South Africa against Angola, Morocco battle Equatorial Guinea and Togo take on Uganda.
Round One of the qualifiers will be played in October this year, followed by Round Two in November.
The Full Draw Results:
The teams paired on left make up the 26 lowest-ranked sides and will playoff in Round One. The winners will progress to face the 13 highest-ranked teams on the right in Round Two. All ties will be played on a home and away basis
– Somalia/Niger v Cameroon
– South Sudan/Mauritania v Tunisia
– Gambia/Namibia v Guinea
– Sao Tome & Principe/Ethiopia v Congo
– Chad/Sierra Leone v Egypt
– Comoros/Lesotho v Ghana
– Djibouti/Swaziland v Nigeria
– Eritrea/Botswana v Mali
– Seychelles/Burundi v Congo DR
– Liberia/Guinea-Bissau v Ivory Coast
– Central African Rep/Madagascar v Senegal
– Mauritius/Kenya v Cape Verde
– Tanzania/Malawi v Algeria
The Remainder of the Round Two pairings:
– Sudan v Zambia
– Libya v Rwanda
– Morocco v Equatorial Guinea
– Mozambique v Gabon
– Benin v Burkina Faso
– Togo v Uganda
– Angola v South Africa
The 20 Round Two winners will advance to Round Three, which is a group stage of five groups of four teams each. The winners of each group will qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.