South Sudan to make debut in W/Cup qualifiers
07 October 2015, 09:33
Johannesburg - South Sudan will make their World Cup debut on Wednesday at the start of Africa's campaign to find five teams to represent the continent at the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
The preliminaries, involving 53 of the 54 African football-playing countries, begin on the holiday island of Mahe on Wednesday afternoon when the Seychelles, the continent's smallest nation, host Burundi in the first leg of their knockout round tie.
Juba, capital of the world's youngest country, will mark its first World Cup game just over an hour later when South Sudan, who last month recorded a first victory in a competitive international when they beat Equatorial Guinea in an African Nations Cup qualifier, host Mauritania in the first leg of their tie.
Also on Wednesday Mauritius host Kenya in Bellevue and Tanzania take on neighbours Malawi in Dar-es-Salaam.
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South Sudan, coached by South Korean Lee Sung-jea, will be trying to make an impact despite a lack of resources or playing experience.
"There is no one who plays in Europe or even from (a club in) north Africa. We do not have any player who is famous but we have kept improving," said Lee in a recent interview.
There are a total of 13 ties in the preliminary round with the aggregate winners advancing to join the top 27 ranked countries in another two-legged knockout round next month.
END IN DAYS
None of the preliminary round nations are expected to qualify for the finals and for half of them their World Cup adventure will end in a matter of days.
First leg matches are being played from Wednesday through to Saturday with all the return games either on Sunday or Tuesday.
Violence in the Central African Republic, which last week led to around 40 deaths, caused FIFA to move their World Cup tie to Madagascar with both legs now being played in Antananarivo.
There are two other African countries who cannot play qualifiers at home.
Somalia have to host their home ties on neutral territory because of the long standing conflict in the horn of Africa. They last staged a game in Mogadishu in October 1986.
Somalia host Niger in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia on Friday in the first leg of their preliminary round tie with the return in Niamey four days later.
Sierra Leone, banned from hosting matches because of scares over the Ebola virus, are away in the first leg of their tie against Chad on Saturday and then host the return on Oct. 13 in Port Harcourt in Nigeria.
Only Zimbabwe are not competing in the qualifiers after being disqualified by FIFA for failing to pay a debt to former coach Jose Valinhos.For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.