More CAF chaos as World Cup qualifier dates pushed back amid commercial uncertainty

January 22 – The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has carried out the draw for African 2022 World Cup qualifiers but at the same time announced that matches will now not start for another nine months. The big news from the draw itself is that  either Cameroon or Ivory Coast will not qualify for the Qatar World Cup after the teams were paired together.

With TV and sponsorship contracts in flux and CAF partners re-assessing their commitments, CAF has taken a major decision to shift the whole World Cup qualifying programme back – presumably in a desperate bid to shore up their finances and give the market and the new CAF/FIFA rights sellers time to win the confidence back of local and international buyers – particularly in the broadcast sector.

The qualifiers will now be played over the course of a year and not starting until from October 2020, They will run through to October 2021, prior to a final round of play-offs in November 2021. The qualifying process had been slated to start in March, but the Confederation of African Football (CAF) rejigged the calendar after belatedly re-scheduling the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations from a summer kick-off to a winter one.

In Cairo, 40 African nations learned their fate and pathway to the next global finals in the draw for the continent’s second round of World Cup qualifying. Twenty-six nations had been given byes and they were joined in the pots by the 14 lowest-ranked sides who progressed from the first round of two-legged qualifiers.

Group D emerged as the pick of the groups, drawing continental heavyweights Cameroon and Ivory Coast together. They are joined by Mozambique and Malawi. The Indomitable Lions have represented Africa at a record seven World Cups; Ivory Coast have reached the finals three times. They last participated in 2014 when both countries failed to make the knock-out phase.

In Group G, Ghana and South Africa will lock horns, alongside Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. In Group F, Angola should complicate Egypt’s life. In 2018, Egypt, spearheaded by Mohamed Salah, returned to the World Cup for a third time, but disappointed in Group A. Gabon and Libya complete Group F.

In Russia, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia were Africa’s other representatives. They will all fancy their chances of making the World Cup again after being handed favourable draws. In Group B, Tunisia play Zambia, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea and in Group C Nigeria will face Cape Verde, Central African Republic and Liberia.

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr denied that his Super Eagles had been given an easy group. “We have three tricky opponents in Group C,” said Rohr. “A few years ago, Cape Verde were Africa’s best FIFA ranked team, CAR have some good players in Europe. We played a friendly in Liberia recently that wasn’t easy…we have to be at our best against them.”

In Group H, the team of Aliou Cisse has been pitted against Congo, Namibia and Togo, and  the charges of Vahid Halilhodžić, who took over from Herve Renard, will meet Sudan and both Guinea and Guinea-Bissau in Group I.

The ten group winners will advance to the final play-off round where five World Cup tickets will be at stake in two-legged ties.

Group A: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Djibouti

Group B: Tunisia, Zambia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea

Group C: Nigeria, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Liberia

Group D: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Malawi

Group E: Mali, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda

Group F: Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Angola

Group G: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia

Group H: Senegal, Congo, Namibia, Togo

Group I: Morocco, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan

Group J: DR Congo, Benin, Madagascar, Tanzania

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1582398927labto1582398927ofdlr1582398927owedi1582398927sni@o1582398927fni1582398927