Ghana could force Bafana to sing a sorry tune in Germany
A Senegalese musician and a Ghanaian footballing legend will decide the World Cup 2006 fate of Bafana Bafana at the preliminary qualifying draw in Frankfurt today.
Youssou N'Dour and Abedi Pele will be the men pulling out the magic balls in the African section of the draw, in the brand new Frankfurt Festival Hall. The draw, which begins at 6pm SA time, involves all the world's footballing continental zones, except South America, whose final qualifying program has already begun. The African draw is scheduled as the penultimate one, after Oceania, and CONCACAF and just before Europe.
N'Dour is certain not to be singing about Senegal facing South Africa, as the two, along with Nigeria, Tunisia and Cameroon are top seeds in Pool A for the African draw, and therefore cannot face each other in qualifying. Pele's Ghana, however, are serious potential banana skins for Bafana and Senegal, as they have been placed as low as Pot D. In fact, a nightmare group for Bafana would surely be Egypt (Pot B), Ivory Coast (Pot C), Ghana (POt D), Uganda (Pot E) and Benin (Pot F).
There are 30 Africa sides in total involved in the draw, and six pots, from which five groups of six will be selected. The winners of each group qualify for the World Cup in Germany in 2006.
For the first time, the African Nations Cup qualifiers are being combined with the World Cup qualifiers. So the top three in each group will qualify for Egypt 2006. This will make up 15 contestants for the Nations Cup, plus Egypt, who qualify automatically as hosts.
Former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper coach and now Wits mentor Roger de Sa picked out Ghana as "one to avoid," but insisted that any game in Africa was not an easy one.
"Even Zimbabwe and Zambia are not easy games," he said. "It's very difficult to make a judgement. So many African players are playing in Europe, that if a country can bring all its overseas-based players in, it has a formidable side.
However, De Sa did say it was fantastic that Bafana, by virtue of their seeding (based on those sides that qualified for the 2002 World Cup) have avoided the 'big four' in Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal and Tunisia.
"Those four are without doubt very difficult," he said.
SuperSport coach, Pitso Mosimane, meanwhile, said he was not particularly worried about the Ivory Coast or Ghana, but said he would want to avoid Egypt, Guinea and Zimbabwe.
"I've seen Guinea, they're all internationals (overseas-based). Zimbabwe are our rivals and they will raise their game," he said.
Both coaches are against the new format of qualifying for both the World Cup and African Nations Cup, which means some small African nations, who did not make it through pre-qualifying will not have a top-level competitive match for around three years.
"For us it's easier, but it's not good for the African game," said De Sa.
"For the smaller countries, that's where they sell players." Added Mosimane: "It's silly to me."
"What about Mozambique. This is why (Victor) Bondarenko lost his job, there's nothing he can do. Caf need to do their job properly."