The third and final phase of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers will take place today in Cairo, Egypt with the 20 African countries that qualified for this stage drawn into five groups of four teams each.
The draw will be conducted by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
It would be recalled that FIFA has released a special edition of its monthly rankings, which divided the 20 teams into four Pots of five teams each, with group winners picking a ticket to represent Africa. Nigeria is placed in Pot 2, alongside Cape Verde, Egypt, Mali and Congo DR.
In Pot 1 are Ghana, Tunisia, Algeria, Cote d’ Ivoire and Senegal, while Pot 3 has Cameroon, Morocco, Guinea, South Africa and Congo Brazzaville. In Pot 4 are Uganda, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Gabon and Libya.
In conducting the draw, FIFA reeled out the procedure for a hitch free draw ceremony billed for Cairo.
“The teams in Pot 4 will be drawn first. The team drawn first from Pot 4 will be placed in Group A, and its exact position in the group will be determined by a ball drawn from a second pot that will contain four balls with the position numbers 1-4,” it stated.”
“The team drawn second from Pot 4 will be placed in Group B, and its position in the group will also be determined by a ball drawn from the second pot. The team drawn third will be placed in Group C, and its position drawn from the second pot. The team drawn fourth will be placed in Group D, and its position drawn from the second pot. Finally, the team in the last ball in Pot 4 will be placed in Group E, and its position will again be drawn from the second pot.
“This very same procedure will then be applied for Pot 3, then for Pot 2, and finally for Pot 1. When the last ball containing the name of the final team in Pot 1 has been drawn and its position in Group E has been confirmed by drawing the last remaining ball in the second pot, the draw will be concluded.”
Former Nigeria international, Joseph Dosu, said Nigerians should brace up for any challenge, saying much as Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon might be formidable opponents, the countries will equally not be comfortable being paired with Nigeria.
“There is no cause for alarm; we should be prepared to face any country in the qualifying. Do you think Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire or Cameroon will be comfortable playing us? They know the potential Nigeria is made of.
“Not going to the next Nations Cup does not remove anything from what they Super Eagles can do. We know how to get it right when the chips are down,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, NFF board member, Felix Anyansi-Agwu, said the key for qualifying after the draw will be adequate preparation, saying having faced the chances of meeting those countries, there is nothing Nigerians can do about it.
“After the draw, we should prepare adequately because for now, there is nothing we can do about it since there is the possibility that we are going to meet them,” he said.
On his own, ex-international, Garba Lawal, advanced regular playing time at club level by Nigerian players as recipe for a good qualifying campaign.
“In the qualifiers, we should always expect tough groups. It shouldn’t be a case of wishing for the easiest groups.
“But the most important thing is for our players to be playing week-in, week-out for their clubs which is the number one problem of our football.”
Having missed out of the 2015 and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria would be hoping to secure one of the five spots for the 2018 FIFA World Cup billed for Russia.