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Excitement Builds as African Qualifying for World Cup 2026 Kicks Off

The road to the 2026 FIFA World Cup in Canada, Mexico, and the United States is set to be a thrilling journey for African nations, with a record number of teams vying for a spot in football’s grandest event. As the qualifying campaign begins on November 15, football enthusiasts are eager to witness the expanded global showcase featuring 48 teams.

Traditionally, only five African nations participated in the 2022 finals in Qatar, but this time around, nine teams are guaranteed a spot, with the possibility of a tenth via an intercontinental play-off. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has revamped the qualifying format, promising a two-year campaign that will unfold with a new and exciting structure.

The World Cup 2026 Qualifying Format

CAF has discarded its traditional preliminary round, opting for a larger group stage involving all 54 African nations. These teams will be divided into nine pools, each consisting of six teams. The nine group winners will secure a direct ticket to the World Cup in North America.

However, Eritrea’s unexpected withdrawal from the qualifying race on November 10 has left Group E with only five teams, impacting CAF’s initial plan.

Group Stage Draw:

Group A: Clash of Gridiron Titans

  • Witness the showdown among Egypt, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

Group B: Fierce Arena Showdown

  • Brace yourself for an epic battle featuring Senegal, DR Congo, Mauritania, Togo, Sudan, and South Sudan.

Group C: Unleashing African Football Powerhouses

  • Behold the strength of Nigeria, South Africa, Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Lesotho as they vie for supremacy.

Group D: Theatrical Football Drama

  • Prepare for the on-field theatrics with Cameroon, Cape Verde, Angola, Libya, Eswatini, and Mauritius.

Group E: Morocco’s Lone Quest

  • Follow Morocco, Zambia, Congo, and Tanzania (with Eritrea withdrawing on 10 November) on their unique expedition.

Group F: Ivory Coast’s Challenge Odyssey

  • Ivory Coast, Gabon, Kenya, The Gambia, Burundi, and Seychelles embark on a challenging quest.

Group G: Algeria’s Football Gauntlet

  • Algeria, Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana, and Somalia make an imposing football glove

Group H: Tunisia’s Soccer Examination

  • Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Malawi, Liberia, and Sao Tome and Principe face a soccer test.

Group I: Mali and Ghana in the Limelight

  • Mali, Ghana, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Comoros, and Chad take center stage in the football spotlight

Match Schedule

The first two matches in each group will unfold between November 15 and 21, with rounds three and four scheduled for June of the following year. The remaining six match days will be spread across international windows in March, September, and October of 2025.

Play-Offs and Dark Horses

Runners-up in the nine qualifying groups will have a second chance to secure a spot in the World Cup. The four best-ranked second-placed teams will enter play-offs, leading to a semi-final and final in November 2025. The winners of these play-offs will advance to an intercontinental play-off tournament, with the final global qualifying round expected in March 2026.

Despite only 13 African countries having participated in the World Cup historically, the expansion to nine guaranteed qualifiers opens the door for potential debutants. Dark horses such as Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, and Cape Verde could pose challenges to more established teams, setting the stage for an unpredictable and exciting qualification process.

With qualifiers spanning two years and matches occurring between September and October 2025, football fans can anticipate surprises and upsets based on the form and fitness of players. The journey to the 2026 World Cup promises to be a roller coaster of emotions for African football fans.

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