Brazil 2014 – • COSAFA teams face uphill qualification battle
Windhoek – Southern African national football teams could join their supporters in following the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil from the comfort of their living rooms, after they were handed tough draws that mean qualification might be out of their reach. With only South Africa being the only seeded team from the COSAFA region, most sides were matched in tricky groups and will need to wrok very hard to be part of the Samba dance in 2014. The region has long struggled to send sides to the World Cup, with only South Africa and Angola having made the grade in the past. Africa will have five representatives at the World Cup and the continent’s slots have historically been taken up by West and North African teams. The region’s best hope lies in qualifying Group A, but even in that one Southern Africa has been dealt a bad hand. The region’s best side, South Africa, has been drawn with one of the most-improved teams Botswana. Botswana will feel hard-done as it has been on the ascendancy and has been arguably the best side in the current qualifiers for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations. The other sides in Group A are the Central African Republic, Somalia and Ethiopia. Barring any shocks, South Africa should qualify for Brazil 2014, while Botswana should have enough in its tank to come second and secure a place in the AFCON tourney (qualifying for the two has been harmonized). The region’s other strong side, Zambia, has been drawn in Group D with the mighty Black Stars of Ghana. Ghana came agonizingly close to a semi-final berth at the last World Cup in South Africa and Chipoolopolo will have their work cut-out playing a side that can easily match the best in the game on its day. Also in Group D are Sudan, Burundi and fellow Southern Africans Lesotho. (It is not clear from FIFA if Sudan – which recently split into North and South – will field a unified team.) COSAFA’s other fancied side, Zimbabwe is in Group G along with Mozambique and the Comoros. The big team in the group, however, is Egypt. Zimbabwe and Mozambique could fancy their chances because Egypt has traditionally struggled to qualify for the World Cup, even when the Pharaohs were the most dominant team in AFCON. But Zimbabwe has never beaten Egypt in continental and World Cup qualifiers. Also in that group is West African side Guinea, which will also consider itself a contender for the ticket to Brazil. Another raw deal has been dealt to Namibia, Malawi and The Seychelles, who have been drawn in Group F with Nigeria’s Super Eagles. The other side in the group is Djibouti. Malawi’s Flames have beaten Nigeria before and they will hope that they can repeat that in the qualifiers for 2014. Swaziland has a herculean task in Group I. The small Southern African country is pitted in what could be the “Group of Death” with Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo, Guinea Bissau and Libya. The DRC are realistically the region’s best bet in a group that Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions will be looking at winning, with Libya and Togo also fancying their chances of pulling through.