Twenty eight African teams learned who their first opposition would be on the road to Qatar after the draw for the preliminary round of Africa’s qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup was held on Monday.
The continent’s 28 lowest ranked sides, according to this month’s FIFA rankings, were in the draw that decided the match ups. The top 26 FIFA-ranked countries were given byes and will compete from next March in a group-phase format. The will be joined by 14 teams from the knockout preliminary rounds.
In the first round Burundi will take on Tanzania. The two countries were participants 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 in September; Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Guinea-Bissau face Somalia, Eritrea, Gambia and Sao Tome e Principe respectively.
Angola have been in decline 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. The two countries 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 vs Sudan, Liberia vs Sierra Leone and Mauritius vs Mozambique represent intense derbies in their region which could swing either way.
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.
Africa has five representatives at the global finals. At the 2018 World Cup Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia represented the continent, but none of them made it past the first round in Russia. 2022 World Cup preliminary round draw for Africa:
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
Seychelles v Rwanda
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