No date yet set for World Cup qualifier pool stages draw

FIFA have not yet set a date for the draw to determine the pairings for the next phase of Africa’s 2018 World Cup qualifiers, officials confirmed yesterday, meaning a long wait for COSAFA duo South Africa and Zambia to learn their fate.

It is likely to be early next year but with the FIFA elections set for February, the 20 remaining African competitors might have to wait until after all the political drama has calmed down before they find out the identity of their next opponents.

Of the top ranked 20 countries in Africa, only 15th ranked Equatorial Guinea and 20th placed Liberia did not progress to group stage, where the teams will be divided into five groups of four team each.

Only the winner of each group goes on to play in the finals in Russia.

Of the 30-odd Premier Soccer League players, outside of the Bafana Bafana contingent, who participated in the first two rounds of the preliminaries only seven can now look forward to the final stage after a weekend of attrition for the continent’s smaller footballing powers.

PSL stars with the World Cup still in their sights are the Orlando Pirates pair of Edwin Gyimah (Ghana) and Issa Sarr (Senegal) and Daouda Diakite and Robert Sankara of Free State Stars and Burkina Faso, as well as their countryman Aristides Bance, who plays at Chippa United.

Then there is also Collins Mbesuma (Mpumalanga Black Aces) and Kennedy Mweene (Mamelodi Sundowns) from Zambia, a country who are always perennial challengers for World Cup qualification but have yet to reach the finals tournament.

Burkina Faso and Libya are the only two teams ranked outside of the top 20 who reached the third round of qualifying

The countries who are through to the last round of African qualifying are: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Cape Verde Islands, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.