2010 draw: England will meet Croatia on road to World Cup

2007-11-25 00:00

South Africa have struggled to overcome Nigeria on many occasions, notably when Bafana did not qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.A., lost 2-0 to the west Africans in the 1998 Nations Cup final, and went out in the first round of the 2002 finals in Tunisia after a 4-1 defeat against the Eagles.

“On the other hand, we have always had good results against Nigeria at home and you’re going to have to play the winners anyway,” said Safa CEO Raymond Hack. “I’d rather we play them sooner and we give [coach] Carlos [Alberto Parreira] the opportunity early on.”

The winners of the Stage 1 qualifiers progress automatically to the second stage, along with the eight best second-placed finishers.

In the second stage of five groups the winners qualify for the World Cup in 2010, and the top three go through to the Nations Cup in Angola. South Africa have qualified for the finals of the 2008 Nations Cup, starting in Ghana in January.

On Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea, Hack said: “We don’t know much about them, but if you go on the Fifa rankings and their past results, the gap between the top teams and bottom teams is closing.

“To play away in countries where you have never played is certainly a challenge.”

Nigerian FA official Abdullahi Sani Lulu said: “These [Nigeria and South Africa] are two very big countries, which also use football to cement their relationship and to show that we are in the leadership profile in Africa”.

Netherlands also drew a tough group in Europe, along with Scotland and Norway. “The last group we had was largely in the southwest of Europe and now we are going to the northwest. Scotland, Iceland and Norway is a tough group so we have to prepare very well,” said Dutch coach Marco van Basten.

English FA chief executive Brian Barwick said playing Croatia again will be a test for whoever replaces sacked coach Steve McClaren.

“It’s an opportunity at a competitive level against a team that ‘did us’ twice in the European qualification. It’s a chance for the new coach, when he’s with us, to see if he can turn around our fortunes, against a very good team.”

Europe’s Group 1, with Portugal, Sweden and Denmark, is another tough one to call. In Asia, both the Koreas were drawn together in Group 3.

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