By George Aluo
Which countries would cross Nigeria’s part? This is the million naira question on the lips of every Nigerian soccer fan as the Russia 2018 World Cup draw holds today in Cairo.
20 countries still in the race would be drawn into five different groups of four countries each with the table toppers landing automatically in Russia. The draw is holding after several protests from different countries to the world soccer governing body, FIFA.
Egypt which remains in Pot 2 had wanted to move up, while Nigeria which was to be pushed down to Pot 3 equally protested and got FIFA’s nod to remain in Pot 2.
As things stand the ranking announced by FIFA on 7th June 2016 will be adhered to. FIFA had Wednesday night stated in a release:
“The FIFA letter dated 5th April 2016 did not specify that the ranking would be calculated on 8th, 9th, or 10th June 2016 but that it would be released around those dates. The special ranking that was released on 8th June 2016, with the date 7th June 2016, fully served its essential and unique purpose of integrating all the official CAF AFCON qualifying matches that were played up to 5th June 2016 ahead of the draw.
This ranking – 7th June 2016 – remains thus valid for the 3rd qualifying round draw. Therefore, the FIFA letter dated 15th June 2016 suggesting a ranking on 21st June 2016 shall be deemed null and void. Please take note that this decision is final and binding and not subject to appeal, as per article 3, paragraph 4 of the Regulations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.” To get to this stage, the Eagles defeated lowly rated Swaziland 2-0 on aggregate.
The Eagles had last month failed to qualify for the Gabon 2017 Nations Cup after losing to Egypt. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has therefore vowed to ensure that the Eagles land in Russia for the World Cup.
Nigeria it would be noted has qualified for the last two editions of the World Cup in South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. The Eagles made their debut at the mundial in USA 94 reaching the second round.
Pot 1: Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Tunisia
Pot 2: Cape Verde Islands, Egypt, DR Congo, Nigeria, Mali
Pot 3: Cameroon, Morocco, Guinea, South Africa, Guinea
Pot 4: Uganda, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Gabon, Libya