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Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria in same African WC qualifying group

CAIRO, June 24 (Reuters) – - Heavyweight contenders Cameroon and Nigeria were drawn in the same African 2018 World Cup qualifying group as the continent’s top-ranked side Algeria on Friday.

Group B includes three of the five African countries who went to the last World Cup in Brazil and they will be battling for a single place at the tournament in Russia.

Algeria and Nigeria both got past the group phase in 2014 and were eliminated in the round of 16 while Cameroon, dogged before arriving in Brazil by a player strike over money, lost all three games and conceded nine goals.

Cameroon, however, have a rich World Cup pedigree with seven finals appearances while both Algeria and Nigeria are both without a coach.

Christian Gourcuff quit his job with Algeria this month and Nigeria fired Sunday Oliseh when they were bundled out of the 2017 African Nations Cup qualifiers in March.

The fourth team in the group are Zambia, who were African champions in 2012.

In Group C, reigning African champions Ivory Coast will have an early reunion with the coach who led them to the continental title in 2015 -- Frenchman Herve Renard.

Renard took over as coach of Morocco this year in a bid to return the north African kingdom to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1998.

The Ivorians have been to the last three World Cup finals but their golden generation with the likes of Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure is now coming to an end.Gabon and Mali are the other two countries in the group.

Ghana, who have also qualified for the last three tournament finals, will be up against Egypt in Group E as well as Congo and Uganda.

Egypt have been crowned continental champions more times than any other country but only played at the 1934 and 1990 World Cup, an increasing source of frustration for the country.

Senegal are the top seeds in Group F where their principle opposition is likely to come from 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa. Burkina Faso and the Cape Verde Islands are in the same group.

Group A presents the Democratic Republic of Congo with a real opportunity to return to the finals for the first time since their maiden appearance as Zaire in 1974.

They are in an wide-open group with Tunisia, veterans of four World Cups, Guinea and Libya, who are still banned from hosting games because of the security situation in the country.

Only the team finishing top of the standings in each group qualifies for Russia.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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