2026 World Cup Qualifiers: In Africa, a long road to the Americas

The race for the 2026 World Cup begins this Wednesday, November 15 in the African zone. The continent's 54 countries – minus Eritrea, which forfeits – will compete for nine or 48 tickets to the first 24-team world championship in a nine-pool format that is played over <> months of competition.

The football World Cup trophy. (Illustration). AFP - FRANCK FIFE

By: Ndiasse Sambe Follow


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Ten matchdays, nine pools of six teams* and 260 matches spread over two years of competition. The marathon of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers starts this Wednesday, November 15 for African teams and will end in November 2025. An of matches to hand out the nine or ten tickets for Africa's representatives at the first 48-team World Cup. And above all, to offer all the countries of the continent the opportunity to play in the qualifiers to dream of a fantastic qualification for the World Cup which will take place in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Quiet beginnings for the "big guys"

The nine winners of each group qualify directly. A tenth country could qualify after a play-off between the four best runners-up first. Then by winning intercontinental play-offs

The first two matchdays will be played between Wednesday 15 and Tuesday 21 November and you have to look at the matches to find a clash to sink your teeth into. DR Congo-Mauritania or Gambia-Côte d'Ivoire are among the fifty or so matches that will be played over the next seven days.

The big boys therefore have plenty of time to start these qualifiers almost without pressure by measuring themselves against opponents with a meagre pedigree. For the first matchday, for example, African champions Senegal will face South Sudan, Algeria will face Somalia, Nigeria will play Lesotho and Egypt will play Djibouti.

Read also2026 World Cup qualifiers: schedule, dates and times of the 1st and 2nd days in Africa

But the quest for the precious sesame will not be on equal terms depending on the selections. Because, as these qualifiers begin, the infrastructure to CAF standards continues to be a hindrance for many nations. There will be about fifteen of them who will not be able to play at home, as they do not have a stadium approved by the Confederation of African Football.

Burkina Faso, who are dreaming of a first participation in a World Cup, will have to do without their fans once again and go to Marrakech to play their matches in Pool A in which Egypt are the favourites.

*Eritrea has officially withdrawn from the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. Pool E has only five teams: Morocco, Zambia, Congo, Tanzania, Niger.

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