Ghana has been handed what looks like a very manageable group for a safe passage to the final qualifying stage for the 2010 FIFA World Cup after being lumped with Libya, Gabon and Lesotho in Group Five for the second round of Africa's qualifying campaign.
Africa has three rounds of qualification, the first of which is already completed. The glittering draw ceremony in the South African city of Durban saw the 12 first seeded African countries — Cameroun, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Morocco, Ghana, Tunisia, Egypt, Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Angola, Togo — placed into different groups and will thus avoid each other until the final group qualifiers.
Twelve group winners and eight best runners-up go through to the final qualifying stage where they will be drawn in five groups of four teams. The five group winners qualify for the finals.
Even though South Africa take part in the competition, which also serves as the qualifying tournament for the Africa Nations Cup, its matches will not count towards World Cup qualification if it reaches the final stage of the qualifiers.
Hosts South Africa compete in Group Four alongside Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Ghana's Soccer Ambassador Extraordinaire and three-time African best player, Abedi Ayew Pele, was among retired international stars as George Weah, Christian Karembeu, American Kasey Keller Ali Daei, Marcel Desailly and local heroes, Jomo Sono, Kaiser Motaung and Lucas Radebe, who helped conduct the draw.
Abedi and Frenchman Karembeu assisted in the European zone draws. A total of 861 matches are scheduled to be played until the preliminary round ends in November 2009, with the draw for the finals scheduled for Cape Town the following month.
The event will see Asia's groups drawn first, followed by those in the CONCACAF region made up of countries in central and north America and the Caribbean.
Europe will feature about an hour into the draw when its 53 teams are divided into nine qualifying groups - eight of six teams and one of five.
The winners of each European group will qualify for the World Cup finals and the best eight runners-up play off for four more qualifying berths.
The event will conclude with the draw for the African zone, where 48 teams will be placed into 12 groups of four teams.
The African zone qualifying groups are as follows: Group One — Cameroun, Cape Verde Islands, Mauritius, Tanzania.
Group Two — Guinea, Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe; Group Three — Angola, Benin, Niger, Uganda; Group Four — Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa; Group Five — Gabon, Ghana, Lesotho, Libya; Group Six — Algeria, Gambia, Liberia, Senegal; Group Seven — Botswana, Cote d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Mozambique; Group Eight — Ethiopia, Mauritania, Morocco, Rwanda; Group Nine — Burkina Faso, Burundi, Seychelles, Tunisia; Group 10 — Chad, Mali, Republic of Congo, Sudan; Group 11 — Eritrea, Swaziland, Togo, Zambia; Group 12 — Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Malawi.
In all 170 teams are chasing 31 places at the World Cup finals, with only hosts South Africa guaranteed a spot at the tournament in 30 months' time.
Due to a recent rule change, only the hosts will be guaranteed a spot, so holders Italy must go through qualifying as normal despite lifting the trophy in 2006.
There will be 861 qualifying matches to determine the line-up for the 2010 World Cup finals, lasting more than 800 days and finishing in November 2009.
A total of 205 countries entered the preliminaries but five have since withdrawn. A further 30 were eliminated in pre-preliminary matches played in Africa, Asia and Oceania.
The draw comes four months after the 2010 preliminary campaign kicked off in Samoa in August.