BY HENRY MHARA
ZIMBABWE will tomorrow discover their opponents for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals when the draw for the continent’s premier football competition is conducted in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
For the first time in the history of the Warriors participation at the finals, they are not among the worst seeded nations, which means they might land themselves a favourable draw.
Unlike in their previous four appearances where they were one of the worst seeded countries and consequently put in the bottom Pot 4, the Zdravko Logarušić-coached side are placed in Pot 3 this time.
Seeding for the tournament scheduled to start on January 9, 2022 until February 6 next year was determined by the August Fifa/Caf rankings, with Zimbabwe ranked number 26 on the continent.
The draw at the Palais du Congress will divide the 24 entrants into six groups, from which all the winners and runners-up plus the best four third-placed teams will advance to the knockout phase.
The draw format ensures that the Warriors are guaranteed to face at least one of the so-called weak teams from Pot 4 which has got Malawi, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Ethiopia and Gambia
They might also be lucky to get another opponent from their Pot 3 which has Cape Verde, Gabon, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau.
Zimbabwe are, however, sure to be drawn with at least two big guns from Pots 1 and 2.
Hosts Cameroon and title-holders Algeria are among the six top seeds. Senegal, currently the top ranked team on the continent, and three former champions, Tunisia, Nigeria and Morocco, complete the Pot 1 line-up.
Among teams in Pot 2 and possible opponents for the Warriors are giants such as Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Mali.
Zimbabwe will be represented at the draw by national teams general manager Wellington Mupandare and Zifa president Felton Kamambo.
Logarušić will not attend as he is currently in his native Croatia where he is attending to a family emergency.
He is expected back in Harare on Wednesday next week to prepare the team for the World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Ethiopia the following week.
Zimbabwe have not been very lucky with the Afcon draw, mainly due to their poor seeding.
In their debut appearance at the finals in 2004, Zimbabwe were drawn in Group C with continental heavyweights Cameroon, Egypt and Algeria.
They lost all their three group matches.
Two years later, they were handed another tough draw when they were placed with Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana. This squad managed to record Zimbabwe’s first victory at the finals with a 2-1 upset over Ghana in their last group stage and were just one goal away from qualifying for the knockout stage.
It took the Warriors 11 years to return to the Afcon finals when they qualified for the Gabon 2017 tournament after topping their group.
But the draw was once again unkind to them, facing off against Senegal, Tunisia and Algeria. They only managed a point at this edition following a thrilling 2-2 draw against Algeria in their opening match of the tournament.
Zimbabwe were presented with a good chance to make history when they got what looked like a fair draw at the 2019 Egypt finals.
Apart from the hosts, they were drawn against beatable opponents in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Group A.
However, they could only manage a single point. The Warriors will be hoping for a favourable draw tomorrow as they hope to qualify beyond the group stages for the first time.
2021 Afcon draw seeding
Pot 1: Cameroon, Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria
Pot 2: Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea
Pot 3: Cape Verde, Gabon, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Guinea-Bissau
Pot 4: Malawi, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Ethiopia, Gambia
- The four pots representing the teams will be labelled pots 1 to 4.
- The six pots representing the groups will be labelled groups A to F. Each team pot shall be completely emptied before moving on to the next pot.
- A ball from a team pot will be drawn, followed by a ball from one of the group pots, thus determining the position in which the respective team will play.
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