South Africa and Ghana were on either side of an intriguing draw when the 2011 All-Africa Games football tournament mini-leagues were decided in Cairo today. 'Baby Bafana Bafana' are in Group A with hosts Mozambique, Libya and Madagascar while the 'Black Meteors' face defending champions Cameroon, Uganda and Senegal in Group B.
Only Mozambique and Cameroon were seeded for a draw conducted by Confederation of African Football general secretary Hicham el-Amrani at the headquarters of the continental governing body on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital. This heightened the risk of a lopsided draw and that is what happened. Group B as a result looks much stronger than Group A for the 3-18 September tournament in Mozambique capital Maputo.
South Africa ousted Angola, Malawi and Zimbabwe to reach a second consecutive All-Africa Games after sneaking into qualifiers thanks to the withdrawal of cash-strapped Namibia. None of the other Group A contenders kicked a ball with Mozambique automatic qualifiers as hosts and Libya and Madagascar receiving walkovers when Egypt and Seychelles withdrew.
Perennial champs return
Cameroon have won four of the last five All-Africa Games football titles in a tournament restricted to U-23 footballers and thumped Democratic Republic of Congo 3-0 in Yaounde last weekend to secure a last-eight place. Ghana were even more impressive as they brought a successful run by the high scoring Nigerian 'Dream Team' this year to a halt with a 2-0 triumph that earned success on away goals.
Making the most of a second chance, Senegal pipped Guinea after a penalty shootout and maintained a reputation of dogged fighters who score few goals and concede even less. Guinea Bissau shocked the Senegalese in the previous round only to be kicked out of the geographical-based eliminators for fielding an over-age player.
The appearance of Uganda, who beat Kenya 5-1 in Nairobi before receiving a return-match walkover, reflects rising football standards in the Central African country since Scottish coach Bobby Williamson took charge two years ago.
Mozambique, South Africa, Cameroon and Ghana appear favourites to occupy the top two places in the groups after the round-robin action and reach the semi-finals of a major attraction at the multi-sport African 'Olympics'.
All-Africa Games draw: