September 4 – African nations kick off their long road to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar today with the continent’s 28 lowest-ranked sides playing for a place in the second round group phase qualifying that begins next March.
The draw has resulted in a few fascinating match ups. In Bujumbura, Burundi will host Tanzania for the first leg of their encounter. The two countries participated at the recent Africa Cup of Nations, but both teams failed to progress from the group stages.
Four other Africa Cup of Nations participants will also play in the preliminary round between 2 and 10 September. Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Guinea-Bissau face Somalia, Eritrea, The Gambia and São Tome and Principe respectively.
Angola have withered since their 2006 World Cup participation in Germany and could encounter a tough Gambia side coached by Belgian Tom Saintfiet, who defeated both Guinea and Morocco away in recent friendlies.
Comoros will hope to upset Togo. They have also been drawn together in the first round of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. In recent years Ghana, Cameroon and Morocco all struggled against the island team.
Chad – Sudan, Liberia-Sierra Leone and Mauritius – Mozambique represent intense derbies in their region which could swing either way.
Under newly appointed French coach Julien Mette, Djibouti want a fresh start against Eswatini. In their return to international football after a two-year absence the ‘Shoremen of the Red Sea’ defeated Somalia 1-0 in a July friendly, but the Eswatini tie represents a stern challenge for the third-lowest ranked country on the continent: in 2015 Ewsatini recorded their biggest ever win, defeating Djibouti at the same stage of qualifying 8-1 on aggregate.
The 14 preliminary round winners from the two-leg fixtures and the 26 countries with byes will then be split into ten groups of four after a fresh draw with the first matches next March. In the third and final round of qualifying the ten group winners will square off in five two-leg playoffs with a ticket for the 2022 World Cup at stake.
At the 2018 World Cup Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia represented Africa, but none made it past the first round.
2022 World Cup preliminary preliminary round (home and away leg between September 3-10):
Ethiopia v Lesotho
Somalia v Zimbabwe
Eritrea v Namibia
Burundi v Tanzania
Djibouti v Eswatini
Botswana v Malawi
The Gambia v Angola
Liberia v Sierra Leone
Mauritius v Mozambique
Sao Tome e Principe v Guinea-Bissau
South Sudan v Equatorial Guinea
Comoros v Togo
Chad v Sudan
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1569033221labto1569033221ofdlr1569033221owedi1569033221sni@o1569033221fni1569033221