Nearly 30 months and 816 matches after Montserrat metBelizein the first qualification game for next year’s soccer World Cup inBrazil, the 31 finalists have been decided.
The host country automatically earns a spot in the finals.
The same five teams that turned out for Africa in the last World Cup inSouth Africa– regional championsNigeria,Algeria,Ghana,CameroonandIvory Coast– will represent the continent again in the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) quadrennial showpiece.
Ivory Coastwill play in its third straight World Cup after drawing 1-1 withSenegalinCasablanca. The Ivorians, who reached the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals, emerged with a 4-2 aggregate win in their home and away series.
“We want to do something different in this World Cup because the previous two were difficult,” saidIvory Coastcaptain Didier Drogba. “InBrazil, we hope to have a few more chances and at least get past the first round.”
Africa’s top ranked team at #17 in the FIFA world list,Ivory Coastfailed to make it out of the first round in the last two World Cups.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, booked its fifth final appearance, shutting out Ethiopia 2-0 to qualify with a 4-1 aggregate victory while Cameroon will be at the finals for a seventh time after a convincing 4-1 win over Tunisia in Yaounde.
“It puts aside a lot of recent disappointments,” said 30-year-old midfielder Jean Makoun who scored twice in the impressive victory. “There is no reason that if we are united, we can’t compete with bigger teams at the World Cup.”
Finalists in 1982, 1986 and 2010, Algeria defeated Burkina Faso 1-0 to win on the away goals rule after a 3-3 aggregate draw and Ghana secured its spot despite losing 2-1 on the road to Egypt.Ghanawon the first leg match 6-1.
Algeria’s qualification was marred by 12 deaths and 240 injuries during celebrations to mark the milestone.
A total of 52 teams took part in the African qualifying tournament.
The other qualifiers are defending champions Spain, Switzerland, Russia, Portugal, The Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Germany, France, England, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Australia, Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Costa Rica, Honduras, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Ecuador.
The World Cup draw takes place on December 6 in Bahia state,Brazil.
Meanwhile, Lydia Nsekera has been ousted as president of the Burundi Soccer Association. She lost 31-25 to parliamentary senator Reverien Ndikuriyo in last week’s election.
One of the few women presidents in the history of world soccer, she was elected president nine years ago.
Last May, Nsekera made history by becoming the first woman elected to FIFA’s executive committee.