Nigeria will play Zambia’s Chipolopolo, Cameroun’s Indomitable Lions and Algeria’s Fennecs in the final round of qualification series for the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals.
The draw conducted at the Cairo Marriott Hotel put all former African champions in the same Group B, with reigning continental champions Cote d’Ivoire to tackle Gabon, Mali and Morocco in Group C.
Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles head Group A that also includes Libya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea, and Ghana’s Black Stars will do battle with the Pharaohs of Egypt, Congo’s Red Devils and Uganda’s Cranes in Group E.
Senegal’s Teranga Lions, which reached the World Cup quarter –finals in its debut in 2002, head Group D that also includes South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, Burkina Faso’s Etalons and Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks.
“It is a tough draw, but then I have always said that you have to beat the best to get to the World Cup. Now we have the draw, we know how to prepare. The preparation has to start right now and we must make good use of every single day leading to the kick –off of the series.
“The other pools are tough as well, because for me, you can never afford to under –rate any team these days. Now we must quickly sort out the issue of Head Coach and his assistants and put every other thing in place in good time,” NFF president Amaju Pinnick said.
Algeria knocked Nigeria out of the race to the 1982 FIFA World Cup, but Nigeria also overpowered Algeria to qualify for the 1994 finals in USA.
Nigeria beat Algeria 3-0 to lift her first –ever Africa Cup of Nations title, on home soil in 1980, but the Fennecs avenged by beating the Eagles 1-0 to also nick their first African title, on home soil, ten years later.
Cameroun stopped Nigeria from reaching the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals, winning 1-0 in Yaounde in a group contest even though Nigeria won the home leg 2-0 in Ibadan. In Yaounde, only weeks after the death of Samuel Okwaraji, Nigeria needed a draw to shove aside the Lions but lost 1-0.
In a friendly in Belgium in October last year, the Super Eagles steamrolled the Lions 3-0.
GROUP A: Tunisia, Libya, DR Congo, Guinea
GROUP B: Zambia, Cameroun, Algeria, Nigeria
GROUP C: Gabon, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco
GROUP D: Senegal, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde
GROUP E: Ghana, Egypt, Congo, Uganda