The business end of World Cup qualifying gets underway in Africa on Friday, which means it's time to highlight their absolutely awful qualifying system. The remaining teams have been split up into 10 groups of four teams each. The winner of each group will go on to the next round of the competition. This seems simple and reasonable, but because of the way the groups have been drawn, it's actually awful.
Only one group -- Group H -- makes total sense. Algeria and Mali are in that group, and they're probably something like the 10th and 11th best teams in Africa. There should be an additional stage where teams of this quality get another chance to qualify if they finish second in their group, but at least this group makes sense. Then, there are the groups that don't.
Ghana, the team with the largest pool of quality young players in Africa, is in a group with Africa Cup of Nations winners Zambia. It is impossible for both Ghana and Zambia to qualify for the World Cup. It is difficult to accurately express how stupid this is.
Some continents have a playoff for second placed teams in groups, while some continents have a big final round robin round at the end of qualifying. Both systems make sense, and either would suit Africa. Basically, anything that allows two teams from the same group to qualify after this stage would be cool. The fact that it is impossible for two of the best teams in Africa to qualify is ridiculous. Additionally, Sudan joins them in Group D, and they're no joke. Zambia goes away to Sudan in a huge match on Saturday.
Group C is nasty as well, with Cote d'Ivoire and Morocco battling for a spot. Other favorites Senegal, Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria, Tunisia and South Africa should be able to progress to the next round without too much competition.
Ghana faces Lesotho at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, while Egypt faces Mozambique at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday feature full slates of games. Cameroon, Cote d'voire, Tunisia and Senegal all play on Saturday. South Africa and Nigeria are in action on Sunday. A full schedule can be found here.