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First stop on Egypt’s road to Russia revealed
Egypt will take on the winner of Chad vs. Sierra Leone in the second round of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying in Africa.
Groups and match-ups from around the world were revealed today at the preliminary draw in St Petersburg.
The home-and-away playoff will be held between November 9 and 17 of this year.
The winner will qualify for the final round of qualifiers, which will comprise five groups of four teams each. Only the group winners will move onto the World Cup finals in Russia.
The draw could have been more difficult for Egypt, but it also could have been easier. Both Chad and Sierra Leone are ranked in the top five of their respective pools.
Egypt has never beaten Sierra Leone, who are favorites to advance past Chad. The Pharaohs’ only previous matches against the Leone Star resulted in an away loss and a home draw, both 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Of Pot 1 teams, Algeria faces the toughest Round 2 draw (Tanzania vs. Malawi) by virtue of the FIFA Rankings.
The most interesting match-ups however belong to teams that already know their Round 2 fate.
Sudan will face 2011 African champions Zambia, while Morocco takes on upstart Equatorial Guinea.
Perhaps the juiciest Round 2 clash sees Angola tussling with South Africa.
The final round of qualifying in Africa won’t get underway until nearly a year after the conclusion of Round 2, with the first group matches expected to be played in October of 2016.
Round 1 match-ups
1. Somalia vs. Niger
2. South Sudan vs. Mauritania
3. Gambia vs. Namibia
4. Sao Tome e Principe vs. Ethiopia
5. Chad vs. Sierra Leone
6. Comoros vs. Lesotho
7. Djibouti vs. Swaziland
8. Eritrea vs. Botswana
9. Seychelles vs. Burundi
10. Liberia vs. Guinea-Bissau
11. Central African Republic vs. Madagascar
12. Mauritius vs. Kenya
13. Tanzania vs. Malawi
Round 2 match-ups
1. Winner 1 vs. Cameroon
2. Winner 2 vs. Tunisia
3. Winner 3 vs. Guinea
4. Winner 4 vs. Congo
5. Winner 5 vs. Egypt
6. Winner 6 vs. Ghana
7. Winner 7 vs. Nigeria
8. Winner 8 vs. Mali
9. Winner 9 vs. Congo DR
10. Winner 10 vs. Côte d’Ivoire
11. Winner 11 vs. Senegal
12. Winner 12 vs. Cape Verde Islands
13. Winner 13 vs. Algeria
14. Sudan vs. Zambia
15. Libya vs. Rwanda
16. Morocco vs. Equatorial Guinea
17. Mozambique vs. Gabon
18. Benin vs. Burkina Faso
19. Togo vs. Uganda
20. Angola vs. South Africa
The draw in Europe appeared to be reasonably balanced, but there were some outliers.
Group A is perhaps the toughest, where France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Bulgaria will all battle for the lone automatic spot.
Group D, featuring Wales, Austria, Serbia, Ireland, Moldova and Georgia, may be seen as the weakest.
Along with the group winners, a playoff will determine which four among the top eight second-placed finishers will advance to Russia.
Group A: Netherlands, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, Luxembourg
Group B: Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Andorra
Group C: Germany, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino
Group D: Wales, Austria, Serbia, Ireland, Moldova, Georgia
Group E: Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan
Group F: England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta
Group G: Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, FYR Macedonia, Liechtenstein
Group H: Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus
Group I: Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland
The top two teams in each group will advance to a final six-team group, where the top three will qualify for the World Cup. The fourth-placed finisher will playoff with the fifth-placed finisher from Asia for a spot in the finals.
Group A: Mexico, Honduras, Curucao/ElSalvador, Canada/Belize
Group B: Costa Rica, Panama, Grenada/Haiti, Jamaica/Nicaragua
Group C: USA, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent/Aruba, Antigua & Barbuda/Guatemala
The qualifying groups in South America and Asia were already determined before the draw.
Asia is in the midst of its qualifying campaign, while South America play a round-robin battle royal – one group of 10 teams – to determine its World Cup representatives.
The intercontinental playoffs were also determined at the draw.
Asia’s fifth-placed team will take on the fourth-placed team from North/Central America (CONCACAF), while South America’s fifth-placed finisher takes on the winner of the Oceania region.