Grant, Oliseh, Mashaba speak of “difficult” 2018 World Cup qualification

first_imgGhana coach Avram Grant says the group stages of the qualifiers to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia will be difficult. The qualifying draw held in St.Petersburg, on Saturday had the Black Stars placed on a bye from the first round but will begin their campaign in November against the winner of the Comoros v Lesotho playoff over two legs. “It will be difficult but we have a good team,” Grant said.Avram Grant was appointed by the Ghana FA in a 27-month deal last November with the ultimate aim of building a more formidable Black Stars team to qualify and participate at the Russia World Cup.Eto’o wishes Cameroon wellCameroon legend Samuel Eto’o (above) has wished his countrymen a successful qualification campaign.The 34-year-old striker, who was one of the special assistants at the official qualifying draw in St. Petersburg on Saturday, is the top scoring Cameroon international of all-time, but he is unlikely to feature in the campaign as coach of the side Volker Finke has recently focused on a new generation of Indomitable Lions. Eto\’o appears to have moved on himself, wishing his national team good luck.The four-time African champions drew a bye in the first round as one of the 27 top ranked teams in Africa, but will meet either Somalia or Niger in the second round. “Cameroon’s chances are wide open, like most of the other teams.\” Eto\’o said in St. Petersburg.”Now, we know that you may be the favourite and still not make it through. I hope this will not be the case, though, because we have a great team and a group of young players who are willing to write history. I wish them all the luck in the world.” Oliseh expresses optimismNigeria coach Sunday Oliseh (above) believes there is cause to be optimistic about his team\’s qualification chances.The three-time African champions drew a bye in the first round as one of the 27 top ranked teams in Africa, but will meet either of two minnows Djibouti or Swaziland over two legs in the second round in November.”Of course, I am happy with the draw. We are not playing the first round, which is a preliminary round and which we knew before the draw,” Oliseh told the official Nigera FA website.”We will also be playing the first leg of the second round away which means we have an advantage of playing the more crucial return leg at home in front of our fans.” However the former Super Eagles captain warned against complacency, promising that his team will fight every opponent at full strength.”Djibouti and Swaziland need to be given the respect that they deserve and either of them that we face in the second round will not be underrated. We respect every team and we will battle anyone that emerges with our full strength.”With the draw now concluded, we can safely say that the race to Russia has officially started.”I am optimistic we will run this race very well. We will give it our very best and pray it will be good enough to get us one of the five slots available for Africa,” Oliseh remarked. Mashaba talks toughMany followers of African football may feel South Africa have their work cut out for them against Angola, but Bafana Bafana coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba (above) is confident his charges can handle the threat posed by their neighbours.Both were drawn to meet in the second round of qualifying after being handed byes in the first round.The winner over two legs will advance to the group stage of the qualifiers.”I think in all fairness, it was a fair draw. One could not have asked for a better draw than this one,” Mashaba told the SAFA website. “We have played Angola on a number of occasions, although the outcomes were close, we have had an upper hand.”It (draw) was more or less what we expected; you cannot reach the World Cup finals without facing tough teams. One thing for sure, we will prepare thoroughly against Angola; we won\’t underestimate them.”The first leg of the tie will be played on October 11 in Angola, while South Africa will host the decisive return leg two weeks later.The draw FIRST ROUNDSomalia v NigerEritrea v BotswanaSouth Sudan v MauritaniaSeychelles v BurundiGambia v NamibiaLiberia v Guinea BissauSao Tome e Principe v EthiopiaCentral African Republic v MadagascarChad v Sierra LeoneMauritius v KenyaComoros v LesothoTanzania v MalawiDjibouti v Swaziland SECOND ROUNDSomalia/Niger v CameroonCentral African Republic/Madagascar v SenegalSouth Sudan/Mauritania v TunisiaMauritius/Kenya v Cape Verde IslandsGambia/Namibia v GuineaTanzania/Malawi v AlgeriaSao Tome e Principe/ Ethiopia v Congo BrazzavilleSudan v ZambiaChad/Sierra Leone v EgyptLibya v RwandaComoros/Lesotho v GhanaMorocco v Equatorial GuineaDjibouti/Swaziland v NigeriaMozambique v GabonEritrea/Botswana v MaliBenin v Burkina FasoSeychelles/Burundi v DR CongoTogo v UgandaLiberia/Guinea Bissau v Ivory CoastAngola v South Africa–Follow Gary on Twitter: @garyalsmith. Get more updates on Facebook/Twitter with the #JoySports hashtag Reacting to the draw from St. Petersburg, Black Stars coach Avram Grant who once coached his native Israel in a previous World Cup qualifying campaign admits to an unusual process adapted in choosing representatives for Africa. “I think the system for Africa is a little bit new for me so we know only the first game and then we know we will go to the group stages,” he said.center_img “In any case, I think in Africa, all the group stages will be very difficult because it contains a lot of good teams and only less than 10% have qualified. If you compare to South America, 50% of the teams have qualified; in Europe, I think over 30 (%). The former Chelsea coach whose team have been to the past three World Cup tournaments is however confident his team will pass the test to make their fourth World Cup appearance. 20 teams are expected to advance from the second round knockout matches. They will then be drawn in five groups of four from which the group winners will secure their tickets to represent Africa at the World Cup in Russia from June 14 to July 15, 2018.last_img read more