Zebras in hat for World Cup draw

Waiting for 2018 World Cup draw: The Zebras will be in the World Cup hat in St Petersburg, Russia tomorrow. PIC: KABO MPAETONA
Waiting for 2018 World Cup draw: The Zebras will be in the World Cup hat in St Petersburg, Russia tomorrow. PIC: KABO MPAETONA

The Zebras will be in the hat when the draw for the 2018 World Cup is conducted in St Petersburg in Russia tomorrow.

With a tough Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification schedule ahead, the limping Zebras would hope for reprieve as they begin their quest to qualify for the tournament, which Russia hosts in three years time.The Zebras have never made it to the finals of the World Cup and were brutally bundled out in the group stages in their bid to qualify for Brazil 2014. Their journey ended ignominiously with a cruel 4-1 defeat to South Africa in Durban in 2013.  The Zebras finished third in that group, which had South Africa, Ethiopia and Central African Republic.

When the draw is conducted for the coming qualifiers, the Zebras are likely to face lightweights as they are in the top pot of a group of 26 lowly ranked nations. The July 15 FIFA rankings were used to seed teams.

The teams in the top pot are Niger (96), Ethiopia (101), Malawi (108), Sierra Leone (111), Namibia (114), Kenya (116), Botswana (120), Madagascar (122), Mauritania (128), Burundi (131), Lesotho (131), Guinea-Bissau (133) and Swaziland (138).

The bottom pot, where the Zebras’ opponent will be drawn from, has Tanzania (139), Gambia (143), Liberia (161), Central African Republic (170), Chad (173), Mauritius (180), Seychelles (186), Comoros (187), São Tomé and Príncipe (189), South Sudan (195), Eritrea (204), Somalia (205) and Djibouti (207).

Zimbabwe became the early casualties after being axed from the qualifiers following their failure to pay a former coach his salary arrears.

This leaves Africa with 53 nations going into the hat tomorrow. The first leg matches take place on the weekend of October 5.

Embattled outgoing FIFA president, Sepp Blatter will attend the draw while the Botswana Football Association (BFA) president, Tebogo Sebego said the local body will not send a representative due to financial constraints.


Qualification process:

First round: The 26 lowest ranked teams will play home-and-away play-offs to reduce the number of teams to 40.

Second round: The 13 winners of the first round will join the 27 highest-ranked teams in another home-and-away play-off round to reduce the number of teams to 20.

Third round: The 20 teams remaining after the first three rounds will be divided into five groups of four teams to play home-and-away round-robin matches.  The winners of each group will qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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