The Uganda Cranes face an uphill task if they are to end their World Cup duck by featuring in the 2026 event in USA, Canada and Mexico. An expanded global showpiece has witnessed the number of slots allocated to Africa rise from five to nine, which should trigger a scramble for places at the global showpiece. But with the Cranes drawn in group D where they face traditional nemesis Algeria, Guinea (Conakry), Mozambique, Botswana and Somalia, the football equivalent of a miracle will be needed for the Cranes to make it to United States of America.
Algeria are the fourth highest ranked nation on the continent in the latest world football governing body Fifa rankings whereas Uganda are 19th, four positions behind Guinea. Algeria’s Desert Fenecs, Guinea’s Syli Elephants and Mozambique’s Mambas have already booked tickets to next year’s African Nations Cup tournament in Ivory Coast with a game to spare. The Cranes retain a mathematical chance of qualifying but they must beat Niger on a neutral ground and hope the Fenecs subdue Tanzania by a wide margin next September.
Countries that play within the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) region have all been handed tough draws. 1970 African champions Sudan (Khartoum) are among the lowest ranked sides and are grouped with neighbours South Sudan in group B where they must contend with reigning AFCON winners Senegal, 1968 and 1972 continental kings Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania and Togo. DR Congo have pedigree as they were Africa’s flag bearers at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.
Kenya’s Harambee Stars and Burundi’s Swallows are together in group F where they face twice African champions Ivory Coast, Rwanda’s Amavubi Stars are the fifth seeded side in group C which is home to triple African champions Nigeria and 1996 AFCON winners South Africa, both of whom are considered football heavyweights.
1962 AFCON titlists Ethiopia and Djibouti are the two lowest seeds in group A in which record seven time AFCON winners Egypt are the top seeds whereas Tanzania’s Taifa Stars must overcome Qatar 2022 semifinalists Morocco, who are the continent’s top ranked side as well as Zambia’s Chipolopolo. Eritrea are the lowest ranked side in the same group.
Four time African champions Ghana, continental flag bearers on multiple occasions, must overcome group I top seeds Mali if they are to emulate their 2010 predecessors who came within a penalty shootout of reaching the World Cup semifinals in South Africa. Mali’s Eagles (8) have never played at World Cup but are seeded above the Black Stars (11) on account of their superior Confederation of African Football ranking.
Of the 54 countries in the draw, four are not even in the latest Fifa world rankings. Seychelles, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia haven’t been earning any ranking points from either Fifa or the world football governing body Fifa.
Group A: Egypt, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Djibouti
Group B: Senegal, DR Congo, Mauritania, Togo, Sudan, South Sudan
Group C: Nigeria, South Africa, Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Lesotho
Group D: Cameroon, Cape Verde, Angola, Libya, Eswatini, Mauritius
Group E: Morocco, Zambia, Congo, Tanzania, Niger, Eritrea
Group F: Ivory Coast, Gabon, Kenya, Gambia, Burundi, Seychelles
Group G: Algeria, Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana, Somalia
Group H: Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Malawi, Liberia, Sao Tome
Group I: Mali, Ghana, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Comoros, Chad