Cameroon might miss 2010

2008-10-23 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — Cameroon, in 12th position and the world’s top-ranked African soccer nation, may be coming to South Africa next month to face Bafana Bafana in the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge in Rustenburg — but there is no certainty they will be making a return trip for the World Cup in 2010.

The stark reality for the Indomitable Lions — who are one of only two African nations to have qualified for a World Cup quarter-final — emerged after Fifa conducted the final African World Cup draw at their Zürich headquarters yesterday.

Cameroon are in Group A along with Morocco, Togo and Gabon in what on this occasion can justifiably be labelled “The Group of Death” among the five qualifying segments — with only group winners booking a place for the premier global event in South Africa in 2010.

“We are indeed in a very difficult group,” said a sombre Otto Pfister, the Cameroon coach. “We may be the favourites, but this doesn’t mean too much. Every game will be a war in a match-up of this quality.”

And Pfister’s assessment is not far off the mark when Morocco’s record of qualifying for past World Cups is recalled.

In addition, with Arsenal’s mesmerising Emmanuel Adebayor in the forefront, Togo have emerged the new force in African soccer and will be intent on repeating their feat of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany.

And, although cast in the role of dark horses in Group A, an improving Gabon are no pushovers either.

In the other four groups, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana and The Ivory Coast stand out as clear favourites — but in taking into account the topsy-turvy results in African qualification for the 2006 World Cup, nothing should be taken for granted.

The top three teams in each of the five groups, along with hosts Angola, will also qualify for the 2010 African Nations Cup Finals, but this would be small compensation for a country like Cameroon should they fail to qualify for the World Cup Finals.

South Africa have failed to reach the last African qualifying rounds and will miss out on the 2010 Nations Finals, but are automatic qualifiers for the World Cup by virtue of their status as hosts.

The final African World Cup qualifying draw:

(Games will be played between March and November next year).

Group A: Cameroon, Togo, Morocco, Gabon.

Group B: Mozambique, Nigeria, Kenya, Tunisia.

Group C: Egypt, Zambia, Algeria, Rwanda.

Group D: Ghana, Benin, Sudan, Mali.

Group E: Ivory Coast, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Guinea.

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