Sudan-Egypt pick of Olympic draw
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The draw for the second round of African qualifying matches for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 took place on Wednesday at the Confederation of African Football’s headquarters in Cairo. In attendance were FIFA’s Gordon Savic, in charge of qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Football Tournament, and representatives from all of the competing nations. 

At the same time, the decision was taken to rearrange the second leg of the first-round match between Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia – postponed due to political unrest in Abidjan – for 20 April in Monrovia. The first leg, played on neutral territory in Accra, was won 4-0 by the Ivorians. 

The 17 teams involved in the draw were divided into two pots, based on their position in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking of March 2011. The eight highest-ranked sides were placed in the first pot, while the remaining teams made up the second, as follows: 

Pot 1: winner of Côte d'Ivoire-Liberia tie (Côte d'Ivoire, second-highest African team), Egypt (third), Nigeria (fourth), Tunisia (eighth), South Africa (ninth), Algeria (tenth), Gabon (11th) and Morocco (12th). 

Pot 2: Senegal (14th), Benin (17th), Mali (18th), Zambia (22nd), Sudan (26th), Congo (29th), Tanzania (30th) and Congo DR (32nd). 

The draw for the second round resulted in the following pairings: 

Algeria-Zambia
Morocco-Congo DR
Congo-Côte d'Ivoire or Liberia
Gabon-Mali
Sudan-Egypt
Benin-South Africa
Tunisia-Senegal
Tanzania-Nigeria 

Most observers would agree that the outstanding fixture to emerge from the draw was the one involving Egypt and Sudan. Despite the large gap between the two neighbouring countries in the rankings, the matches are likely to be hotly contested. 

Hany Ramzy, former Kaiserslautern defender and head coach of Egypt’s Olympic team, shared his thoughts on the outcome of the draw: “Recently, African sides have all made a lot of progress, and there is less of a divide in terms of quality. That’s why the games against Sudan will be far from easy.” 

The first-leg matches will be held on 3, 4 and 5 June, and the return legs are scheduled for 17, 18 and 19 June. 

The winners of these eight ties will proceed to the final qualifying stage, where they will be split up into two groups of four. The teams that finish top of each group will automatically secure their ticket for 2012. The two second-placed sides will play each other to decide the third African representative in London. The loser of that match will then take part in a play-off against the fourth-placed Asian team, with the eventual winner also advancing to the Olympics.