The first round of Confederation of African Football (CAF) qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will feature 28 teams competing for 14 slots in the group stage.
The 14 winners will then join the 26 top-ranked teams in the second round. Seeded countries include Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and Egypt.
“These opening fixtures include local rivalries between 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) participants Burundi and Tanzania and a west African derby between Liberia and Sierra Leone,” read a CAF statement.
Five places at the 2022 World Cup have been allotted to Africa, and the 40 successful teams from the preliminary rounds will advance to the main group stage, from which 10 countries will progress to the final qualifying round.
Despite recent progress and qualification to the AFCON for the first time in their history earlier this year, Burundi failed to progress beyond the group stage, losing all three matches without scoring a goal.
Similarly, Tanzania returned to the AFCON for the first time since their debut in 1980, but also lost all three group stage matches and have since sacked coach Emmanuel Amuneke.
African qualifiers traditionally provide plenty of surprises and memorable matches. Four of the five African teams at the 2006 World Cup in Germany were making their debuts at the global finals, including Angola and Togo, whose Qatar 2022 qualifying campaigns begin with challenging encounters against Gambia and Comoros respectively.
13 African nations have played at the FIFA World Cup finals, with Brazil 2014 marking the first time two African countries had advanced to the knockout stages in the same tournament.