HOW NEW AFRICAN WORLD CUP QUALIFYING WILL PLAY OUT FOR 2026 WORLD CUP

FIFA World Cup 2026


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The matches for African qualifying for the 2026 Fifa World Cup starts on15 November, with the continent ready to hurl a record number of nations to
football's newly expanded global attraction. See how new African World Cup qualifying
will play out for 2026 World Cup.

Just five countries were there at the 2022 finals in Qatar, where Morocco completed history by fetching the first African side to get to the semi-finals.

Though, nine African sides are assured a space at the next version in Canada, Mexico and United
States of America, a competition that will be made up of 48 teams, up from 32. There
is even the opportunity for a 10th to be eligible by an intercontinental
play-off.

Among possibly twice the number of teams getting a ticket to North America, the Confederation of
African Football (CAF) has altered the qualifying arrangement.

BBC Sport Africa narrates what you have to know about a battle that will last for two years.

How can you be eligible for the 2026 WorldCup?

CAF has ended its conventional beginning round, where lower-ranked countries were pinched into a series of two-legged fixtures, the champions of which moved to a group stage.

The current idea was for all African nations to partake in a bigger group stage - with the 54 contestants divided into nine pools, each having six teams.

Though, CAF's ideas were rather flawed by Eritrea’s last minute withdrawal from qualifying on 10
November, allowing Group E with only five teams.

Games will be played home and away. The nine group champions will qualify for the World Cup.

The draw was carried out in July in Ivory Coast:

GroupA: Egypt, BurkinaFaso, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Djibouti

GroupB: Senegal, DRCongo, Mauritania, Togo, Sudan, South Sudan

GroupC: Nigeria, South Africa,Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Lesotho

GroupD: Cameroon, Cape Verde,Angola, Libya, Eswatini, Mauritius

GroupE: Morocco, Zambia,Congo, Tanzania, Niger (Eritrea withdrew on 10 November)

GroupF: Ivory Coast,Gabon, Kenya, The Gambia, Burundi, Seychelles

GroupG: Algeria, Guinea,Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana, Somalia

GroupH: Tunisia, EquatorialGuinea, Namibia, Malawi, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe

GroupI: Mali, Ghana,Madagascar, Central African Republic, Comoros, Chad

When will the matches be played?

The first two matches in every group will be played between 15 and 21 November, while rounds three and four will be played next June.

Amid qualifiers for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations also needing to be planned during 2024, the outstanding six match days of World Cup qualifiers will be extended transversely the
international windows in March, September and October 2025.

When will the play-offs be?

A number of the runners-up in the nine qualifying groups will get another opportunity to get to
Canada, Mexico and the USA.

The four best-ranked second-placed teams will be pinched into play-offs, with a semi-final and final
in November 2025 determining which African side will proceed to an
intercontinental play-off competition.

Eritrea's departure will have an effect on those rankings, with CAF yet to compose a statement on how that issue will be decided.

The last worldwide qualifying round will engage six teams opposing for the last two places at the
2026 finals, and is likely to take place in March 2026.

Are there any surprising team?

Merely 13 African countries have ever played at the World Cup, but an increase to nine certain
qualifiers means there is an opportunity for some first-timers in three years'
time.

Every qualifying group for 2026 has at least one side who have formerly played at the World Cup.

Though, Mali -who was defeated by Tunisia in Africa's play-offs for Qatar 2022 - is the top
seeds in Group I in front of Ghana.

Burkina Faso, who ended fourth at the 2021 Nations Cup in Cameroon, might test Egypt in Group A while Equatorial Guinea got home wins over Group H opponents Tunisia in qualifiers for both the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Nations Cup.

In spite of having a population of just over half a million people, Cape Verde have twisted themselves into regular Nations Cup qualifiers, getting to four of the
past six competitions, and will imagine their opportunities of shocking Group D
strong Cameroon.

For now, could Serhou Guirassy - who scored 15 goals in his nine league outings for Stuttgart this
season in the Bundesliga - assist Guinea conquer Algeria in Group G?

Known that the qualifiers are stretched over two years, with four matches being played across
September and October 2025, there could be upsets on the way based on the
form and fitness of players.
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