The Super Eagles may be drawn against arch-rivals Ghana, South Africa, and Angola in the African qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, The PUNCH reports.
The draw ceremony for the qualifying round of the 2026 World Cup holds in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Thursday (today) hours after the 45th CAF Ordinary Assembly at the same venue.
According to a statement from the Confederation of Africa Football, Africa will employ a single-stage of World Cup qualification format for the next finals that will be co-hosted by the US, Canada, and Mexico.
The decision ends the three qualification rounds format adopted in the past, which takes almost two years to complete.
The new format, which was approved by the Executive Committee of CAF, will see the 54 Member Associations’ teams drawn into nine groups of six teams each, with the winners from each group qualifying for the World Cup after Africa’s slots were increased to nine teams, with the 10th team qualifying via a playoff process.
The four best runners-up will be drawn in a mini-playoff to find one extra team that will advance to the Intercontinental playoffs.
The Eagles, who are seeded in Pot 1 for the draw, will automatically avoid Morocco, who made history by becoming the first-ever African country to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup at the last edition in Qatar, as well as Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Mali and Ivory Coast, who are also in Pot 1. Teams in the same pot cannot be drawn together.
This means the three-time African champions could get another date with some of their fierce rivals who are in other pots.
Ghana, who are seeded in Pot 2 for the draw alongside Burkina Faso, South Africa, Cape Verde, DR Congo, Guinea, Zambia, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, denied Nigeria a place at the last edition of the World Cup in Qatar after they ousted the Eagles on the away goal rule.
After a goalless draw in Kumasi, the Black Stars held the Eagles 1-1 in Abuja to secure their place at the 2022 World Cup.
Angola, who are pooled in Pot 3 with Uganda, Benin, Kenya, Mauritania, Congo, Madagascar, Guinea Bissau and Namibia, stopped the three-time African champions from qualifying for the 2006 edition hosted by Germany via the head-to-head rule.
Jose Peseiro’s team could also face tricky teams like Sierra Leone, who have been a bogey team for the Eagles lately, Central African Republic, who handed the Eagles their first home defeat in Lagos in over 40 years — in 2021.
Mozambique, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Malawi and Libya are in Pot 4, while Pot 5 has Niger, Comoros, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Botswana and Liberia. Lesotho, South Sudan, Mauritius, Chad, Sao Tome, Djibouti, Seychelles, Eritrea and Somalia are in Pot 6.
Meanwhile, former Eagles captain, Austin Okocha and other African legends will be in attendance for the draw.
Other players expected to join the former Paris Saint-Germain midfielder are El- Hadji Diouf, Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Adebayor, Alex Song, Wael Gomaa, Asamoah Gyan, Khalilou Fadiga, Geremi Njitap, Houssine Kharja and Youri Djorkaeff.
Ivorian legends Didier Zokora, Siaka Tiene, Aruna Dindane, Cyril Domoraud, Alain Gouamene, Abdoulaye Traore, Emmanuel Eboue, Ahmed Ouattara, Bonaventure Kalou, and many others will also be present.
The 2026 World Cup will be co-hosted by Canada, Mexico and the USA.
SOURCE: PUNCH NEWSPAPER