The performances of the five representatives from the continent at the World Cup in Russia this June will be top of the 2018 agenda for African football‚ but it is also a busy year off the field for the African game. Egypt‚ Morocco‚ Nigeria‚ Senegal and Tunisia fly the flag in mid-year where Africa will be hoping for at least a quarterfinal appearance and hopefully a first-ever side into the semifinals.
But the best team on paper – Morocco – have been handed a horror first round draw in the same group as 2010 World Cup winners Spain and current European champions Portugal‚ puncturing much of the continent’s hope. At the last World Cup in Brazil‚ Algeria and Nigeria made it through to the second round while the Ivory Coast were unlucky not to also get through to the last-16 but it is likely to be a poorer return this time round.
The rest of national teams will be focused on the qualifiers for the 2019 African Nations Cup‚ which resume in September. Rounds two to five of the six-match schedule for each country will be completed by the end of the year with the last qualifiers being played in March 2019.
Off the field‚ the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is to make a decision on the hosting of the next finals‚ which have been expanded to 24 teams. Cameroon insists they are capable of handling the increased numbers but CAF are sending an independent auditing firm to check on their preparations and adjudicate.
But it might come down to a political decision‚ anyway‚ with the new CAF leadership looking to snub former president Issa Hayatou‚ who is from Cameroon‚ and move the tournament to Morocco‚ who have been the biggest backers of new president Ahmad and his transformation plans.
CAF must also settle the issue when the new-look club competition format is introduced plus a raft of top personnel changes are expected at the headquarters in Cairo over the next months. For the moment‚ the two annual club competitions – the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup – will be played from February to November.
The Champions League winner‚ as is tradition‚ goes onto compete at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi at the end of the year. The year starts with the Chan (African Nations Championship) 2018 finals in Morocco‚ who are replacing Kenya as hosts.
The 16-team tournament‚ starting next Friday‚ is for home-based national teams only and hardly raises much interest.
Source: Times Live