Algeria face long qualifying route to 2021 Africa Cup of Nations
Cairo (AFP) –
Algeria, who meet Senegal on Friday in the Africa Cup of Nations final in Cairo, must travel virtually the length of the continent three times during the 2021 qualifying campaign.
The Desert Foxes were placed in Group H with three southern African states, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, when the draw was made in Cairo on Thursday.
There are no direct air links between Algiers and Lusaka, Harare and Gaborone, which will add to the travel time of a squad currently captained by Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez.
It is a good draw for Algeria though, as Zimbabwe flopped in the 2019 tournament, Zambia failed to qualify and Botswana took one point from a possible 18 in their last campaign.
Senegal, whose top player is Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, face a slightly less daunting travel schedule in Group I against Congo Brazzaville, Guinea-Bissau and eSwatini.
The Teranga Lions should finish comfortable winners with Congo and Guinea-Bissau the likeliest contenders for the second qualifying place.
Madagascar, whose qualification for the quarter-finals was the shock of the 2019 Cup of Nations, were put in Group K with the Ivory Coast, Niger and Ethiopia.
The Ivorians appear the probable table-toppers, while the Malagasys set out to prove they are not one-tournament wonders.
Nigeria, who beat Tunisia 1-0 on Wednesday in the third place playoff, will meet fellow west African nations Benin and Sierra Leone plus Lesotho.
Ghana and South Africa are in Group C and both should qualify at the expense of Sudan and the winners of a preliminary round tie between Mauritius and Sao Tome e Principe.
Although automatic qualifiers as hosts, Cameroon will take part to gain competitive match practice, leaving Cape Verde, Mozambique and Rwanda to contest the other Group F place.
Uganda, the strongest of the east African nations at the 2019 tournament, are with Burkina Faso, Malawi and South Sudan or the Seychelles in Group B.
The four two-leg preliminary ties will be played in October and the group phase kicks off the following month with two rounds.
Liberia v Chad
South Sudan v Seychelles
Mauritius v Sao Tome e Principe
Djibouti v Gambia
First, second legs: Oct 7-15
Mali, Guinea, Namibia, Liberia/Chad
Burkina Faso, Uganda, Malawi, South Sudan/Seychelles
Ghana, South Africa, Sudan, Mauritius/Sao Tome
Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Angola, Djibouti/Gambia
Morocco, Mauritania, Central African Republic, Burundi
Cameroon (hosts), Cape Verde, Mozambique, Rwanda
Egypt, Kenya, Togo, Comoros
Algeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana
Senegal, Congo Brazzaville, Guinea-Bissau, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland)
Tunisia, Libya, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea
Ivory Coast, Niger, Madagascar, Ethiopia
Nigeria, Benin, Sierra Leone, Lesotho
Matchdays: Nov 11-19 (two rounds), Aug 31-Sept 8 2020 (two rounds), Oct 5-13, Nov 9-17
Note: winners and runners-up qualify from each group except F, where Cameroon automatically qualify as hosts with highest placed of other three teams
Did not enter: Eritrea, Somalia
© 2019 AFP