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Rediff.com  » Sports » African powers clash in World Cup qualifiers

African powers clash in World Cup qualifiers

November 26, 2007 08:43 IST

Nigeria and South Africa, who jostle for political and economic supremacy on the African continent, were drawn together in their World Cup qualifying group on Sunday.

Although South Africa, as hosts of the 2010 event, qualify automatically for the finals, they are participating in the preliminaries because they also serve as qualifiers for the 2010 African Nations Cup finals.

Nigeria defeated South Africa 4-0 in their World Cup qualifying debut 15 years ago en route to a first finals appearance in the United States in 1994 but the Super Eagles surprisingly missed out on the last event in Germany.

"There is pressure because we did not make it to the finals in 2006 but I want to believe that that pressure will motivate us to get to the finals," said Nigeria Football Association president Sani Abdullahi.

Nigeria and South Africa share Group Four with Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone, who had to come through a preliminary-round match earlier this month.

African champions Egypt were drawn with the unpredictable Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and the tiny Red Sea state of Djibouti, who won their first international earlier this month to qualify for the group stage.

Five-times World Cup finalists Cameroon will have little concern over being matched in Group One with the Cape Verde Islands, Mauritius and Tanzania while the Ivory Coast have an easy-looking an assignment in Group Seven with Botswana, Madagascar and Mozambique.

"Cameroon is the favourite in the group but the other three teams have an equal chance to take second place," said Tanzania's Brazilian coach Marcio Maximo in Durban after Sunday's draw.

Guinea, whose rapid rise up the standings makes them the third-ranked team on the continent, were drawn with Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Togo, who have been banned from playing at home in their next three qualifiers after recent stadium violence, face Zambia, Eritrea and Swaziland in Group 11. Togo were surprise qualifiers at the last World Cup finals in Germany.

The winners of Africa's 12 qualifying groups plus the eight best runners-up advance to a third stage of league competition.

The last 20 sides will be drawn into five groups from which only the winners will qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals.