The Nile Ritz-Carlton hotel located in Egypt’s capital Cairo hosted the high and mighty in African football when the second-round draw for African World Cup 2022 qualifiers was held on Tuesday, January 21.
Africa’s race to elect representatives for the next World Cup now enters the second-round with today’s draw. Forty teams were pooled into 10 groups of four after the draw. This qualifying phase starts in March 2020 and comes to an end in October 2021. Ten teams will make it after this stage.
For the third and final round, the ten group winners will be drawn into five two-legged knockout ties to be played in November 2021.
The forty teams pooled today comprised – the 14 winners of the first-round of qualifiers. They were joined by the 26 highest African nations in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking (as of December 2019). Only the section winners advance to the third round and final round.
How the groups played out
Central African Republic
- Pot 1: Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon, Mali, Congo DR
- Pot 2: Burkina Faso, South Africa, Guinea, Uganda, Cabo Verde, Gabon, Benin, Zambia, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire
- Pot 3: Madagascar, Mauritania, Libya, Mozambique, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Niger, Central African Republic, Namibia, Guinea-Bissau
- Pot 4: Malawi, Angola, Togo, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Djibouti
— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 21, 2020
How they shape up: FIFA Analysis of groups
Pot 1: Maghreb nations looking strong
The continent’s big guns line up in Pot 1, among them the five nations that represented Africa at the last FIFA World Cup: Tunisia, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt and Senegal.
Reigning CAF Africa Cup of Nations champions Algeria are in the hat with them. The Desert Foxes missed out on a place at Russia 2018 and will be anxious to return to the World Cup scene for the first time since Brazil 2014. The same goes for Ghana and Cameroon.
Completing Pot 1 are Congo DR and Mali. The Leopards have not graced the world finals since Germany 1974, when they went by the name of Zaire, while the Eagles have never qualified.
Pot 2: Côte d’Ivoire the team to avoid
Two sides with World Cup experience figure in Pot 2: the formidable Côte d’Ivoire, who will be led by their fearsome strike duo of Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha; and South Africa, who have failed to make the big stage since hosting the 2010 tournament, an absence they are keen to end.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon and Naby Keita’s Guinea are two ambitious sides that will also pose a threat, despite their record of never having qualified.
Burkina Faso, Uganda, Cape Verde, Benin, Zambia and Congo are also capable of big things and should not be underestimated.
Pot 3: Outsiders with big ideas
None of the teams in Pot 3 have ever qualified for the biggest tournament in football, though the likes of Madagascar and Mauritania have made significant progress in recent times and look increasingly capable of taking that last step.
Joining them are Namibia, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, who have all been on the qualification campaign trail for several months now. The quartet emerged from a tricky first round and have designs on going further.
Rounding off the pot are Libya, Niger, Kenya and Central African Republic, who all fancy their chances of causing an upset and making the third round.
Pot 4: Potential surprise packages
The fourth and final pot is an indication of the quality on show in the group phase, containing as it does two previous World Cup qualifiers in Togo and Angola.
Alongside them are teams of the calibre of Tanzania – back in the limelight after appearing at their first Africa Cup of Nations in 40 years – Malawi and Liberia, who respectively knocked out Botswana and Sierra Leone in the last round.
Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, Djibouti and Equatorial Guinea also negotiated the preliminary phase and are aiming to make their presence felt in what promises to be an exciting second round.