The Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Thursday, July 13, held the preliminary draw for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers at its 45th Ordinary General Assembly.
The event, which came off in Abidjan, saw Ghana drawn against Madagascar, Comoros, Central African Republic, Chad, and Mali in Group I for the qualifiers.
The qualification format, according to CAF, consists of nine groups, each comprising six teams. The top team from each group will automatically secure a spot in the 2026 World Cup.
Additionally, the four best second-placed teams will participate in playoffs, with the winner of this playoff facing a team from the CONCACAF zone for a chance to claim the tenth and final spot in the tournament.
Graphic Online sampled views of some Ghanaian Sports Journalists on the chances of the Black Stars to secure qualification to the world football fiesta in 2026. Here are excerpts compiled by Beatrice Laryea.
Jerome Otchere: No disrespect to the other teams in our group but for us sinking into the state where we have lost to Comoros in recent times and have been held by Madagascar for instance, there wouldn’t have been too much concern.
Our group is manageable. Our qualification would be determined by availability of quality players, meritorious selection and good coaching.
Seidu Adamu: I think the Blacks Stars World Cup group is very tricky looking at the team’s current outings.
For sides like Mali, you can easily predict them, but when it comes to sides like Chad who the Black Stars have not played before in a competitive game, it comes with a whole objective to prove a point.
The Black Stars need to lift themselves above the performance we have seen in recent years to make it past this group.
John Vigah: Ghana’s search for its fifth World Cup ticket will not come on a silver platter, at all. That is incontestable!
A few years ago, I would have beaten my chest boldly and asked the GFA to start looking for a suitable training base for the Black Stars to train ahead of the team’s participation in the World Cup proper. No more!
Recent results on the continent and the recently-held World Cup tournament in Qatar where we were bundled out in the opening round, limpidly suggest that our game is taking a disturbing slump.
Interestingly, our group includes Mail, Madagascar and Comoros, all of which we have struggled to account for recently.
Mail, for instance, whipped us 3-0 in a preparatory game ahead of the Qatar World Cup. Before then, we have found them pretty difficult to surmount.
Comoros beat us 3-2 at the last Nations Cup held in Cameroon, while Madagascar held us to a 1-1 drawn game in a Nations Cup qualifier, this year.
So, clearly, our group is a very cagey and unpredictable one which would demand meticulously efficient planning, unbiased selection and an unflinching national support for the team.
Heartily, we all know that there are no minnows in football now – and the earlier we hit the ground running with our preparations, the better for us. Good luck to the Stars!
Muftawu Nabila Abdulai: I think it is a complicated group – a group that looks easy on paper but would be tough considering the fact that the Black Stars have struggled in recent times against these countries, especially, Comoros, Central Africa Republic, and Madagascar.
Mali brings back memories of Bamako during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. Kwadwo Asamoah, Matthew Amoah, and Michael Essien led that destruction, and hopefully, the Stars will shine again. But it will be tougher now because Mali have been extremely good at youth level and these players have moved up the ladder to the national team.
Having lost its fear factor in the continent and beyond, every country will be confident lining up against Ghana, but I do expect Chris Hughton to reach the final phase of the qualifiers.
Yaw Ampofo Ankrah: Well on paper, at least Ghana looks favourites alongside Mali in Group I, but that is where the problem is.
In the past whenever Ghana is being touted or described as favourites, the Black Stars tend to underperform or to disappoint. A case in point was when where Ghana was not favourite against Nigeria in the final two-leg encounter for the last World Cup. Everybody expected Nigeria to win and the pressure was more on Nigeria but Ghana qualified.
Also, you look back at the last AFCON in Cameroon and you will realise even if Ghana was labelled as favourites, we unfortunately, don’t live up to the billing. So we should be very cautious because Mali will not be push overs.
For the likes of the Comoros, Madagascar and Chad, this is the World Cup itself. Forget about the qualifying matches. They will give everything when they come up against the Black Stars. In the group, the most decorated team is the Black Stars. The Stars have the World Cup experience, they’ve got the big names and to beat them will be huge incentive for these countries. We’ve got to be extra careful.
The other teams would want to state a claim so Ghana must be careful. We’ve not have good results against Mali at various national levels in recent times. Psychologically, we need to get out of that prison. But if we do our homework well, if we put our house in order, if the players are focused and not talking about financial motivation, then I think the Black Stars stand a very good chance.
I have been to the World Cup in Germany with the team, also in South Africa, Brazil and Qatar and I think that Ghana missed the opportunity to go to the next level. Maybe at Mexico, USA and Canada, that could be the World Cup that Ghana could come to the party properly and get to the semifinals. It all depends on how we prepare ourselves for the qualifiers.
Group I is a very tough group and nobody should kid themselves and say that the draw has been kind to the Black Stars. I don’t think so. I think it is a test and if you are complacent or you underestimate your opponent, that could be the end of your dream.
Saddick Adams: I believe it’s a fairly decent group which ordinarily should have been a walk in the park for the Black Stars, say 10-years-ago, looking at the depth of the team then and the experience and how they played in the qualifiers knowing that there was something valuable at stake cannot be compared to what we presently have as a team.
The loss of our commitment and vigour and the lustre around the Black Stars have completely dwindled. So it makes the group a very difficult one.
Like I mentioned on other platforms that any group that Ghana finds itself now, at the moment, is a group of death because of what we have witnessed in recent years. So even though it’s a very fairly decent and a very lucky group for the Black Stars, I also believe that there are other mountains and a very daunting opportunity ahead of the team to be able to maneuver their way through, especially against Mali and Central Africa Republic who have recently eliminated Nigeria from AFCON qualifiers.
Even though it looks quite decent, because of the inconsistency in the performance of the Black Stars team in recent times and the fact that a lot of inexperienced players have transitioned into the team, it will be very difficult for us to qualify.
We don’t have any other opportunity or we don’t have any other excuse than to top the group and qualify automatically for USA, Canada and Mexico 2026. It all depends on what the coach and the players will decide.
Credit: Graphic Online