Sierra Leone in group of death

30 November 2007 at 20:48 | 3891 views

By Abu Shaw, London.

The happiness that Sierra Leoneans felt after the country qualified for the World Cup draw was short lived as anxiety took over following the pairing of Sierra Leone with football heavy weights Nigeria and South Africa. Group 4, dubbed the group of death, also has rapidly improving Equatorial Guinea.

Group 4 is arguably the toughest among the 12 African groups drawn in Durban, South Africa on November 25. The winner of each group qualifies automatically for the World Cup proper while the best runners-up will play one another on home and away basis and the best teams will go through.

It is not all gloom and doom for Sierra Leone’s national football team, the Leone Stars because of this World Cup draw. In fact, the presence of Bafana Bafana of South Africa, the host for the 2010 World Cup, in Group 4 is a blessing in disguise for Sierra Leone.

South Africa is an automatic qualifier for the World Cup as host in that capacity, which means that their participation in Group 4 is purely for qualifying for the African Nations Cup in 2010 in Angola.

With this scenario, the Leone Stars will slug-it-out with the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea for the World Cup spot. And even if Sierra Leone comes third behind Nigeria and South Africa, it means the Leone Stars will still be vying for the World Cup. It’s difficult, but if Leone Stars play well, their chances are great to qualify at least for the African Nations Cup.

The other groups are made of: Group 1 (Cameroon, Cape Verde Island, Tanzania & Mauritius); Group 2 (Guinea, Zimbabwe, Namibia & Kenya); Group 3 (Angola, Benin, Uganda & Niger); Group 5 (Ghana, Libya, Gabon & Lesotho); Group 6 (Senegal, Algeria, Liberia & Gambia); Group 7 (Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Botswana & Madagascar); Group 8 (Morocco, Ethiopia, Rwanda & Mauritania); Group 9 (Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Burundi & Seychelles); Group 10 (Mali, Congo, Chad & Sudan); Group11 (Togo, Zambia, Eritrea & Swaziland); Group 12 (Egypt, DR Congo, Malawi & Djibouti).

According to CAF, Africa’s football body, the winners and runners-up of each group qualifies automatically for the African Nations Cup in Angola 2010. The 12 group winners and the best 8 runners-up advance to the third and final qualifying phase of the World Cup. Only five African countries can qualify for South Africa 2010 out of the total of 48 teams drawn in Durban.

Photo: The Leone Stars, Sierra Leone’s national soccer team.