By Andrew E. K. Maina
Three of Africa’s five representatives (Nigeria, Tunisia, and Morocco) found themselves drawn against former opponents as the 2018 Fifa World Cup draw was conducted in Moscow, Russia. Africa’s other representatives, Senegal and Egypt, were placed in difficult groups.
Nigeria was drawn in Group D with Argentina – whom they played in the 1994, 2006 and 2010 World Cups – Croatia and World Cup debutants, Iceland. Tunisia was drawn with England in Group G – a team that they played against in the 1998 World Cup – Belgium and Panama. Morocco was placed in Group B, alongside Portugal – a team they faced in their first ever World Cup in 1986 – Portugal’s Iberian rivals, Spain, and Iran.
Hosts Russia will play Saudi Arabia in the opening match. The two teams, together with Uruguay and Egypt, were drawn together in Group A. Senegal, Africa’s fifth representative, were placed in Group H, together with Poland, Colombia and Japan.
Defending champions Germany were drawn with Mexico, Sweden – who eliminated four-time winners Italy en route to the finals – and South Korea. This could be considered the ‘group of death’, considering all four teams have been to the Fifa World Cup Quarterfinals at least once in the past 25 years.
The draw was conducted by a panel of former world cup legends at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on Friday, December 1, 2017. These included World Cup winning Captains Diego Maradona from Argentina, Carlos Puyol of Spain, Cafu of Brazil, and Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro. Also involved were France’s Laurent Blanc, former Soviet Union star Nikita Simonev, all-time leading Fifa World Cup Finals goalscorer Miroslav Klose, among other leading lights in an event that was hosted by former England Striker Gary Lineker.
The event also featured speeches from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Fifa President Gianni Infantino, and performances from a number of Russian, traditional, pop and hip-hop acts.