Twenty-eight (28) teams would be involved in the preliminary round of matches over two legs between September 4 and 10 as the continent begin its elimination series towards the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Five places have been allotted to Africa and the successful 14 teams from the prelims will advance to next round’s mini league stage, that will see tens progress to the ultimate round.
As such, this qualification tournament would be nothing than a cup final along the way even more so from this first hurdle with the involvement of some teams that took part in the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.
The pick of the cherry is the tie between Burundi and Tanzania following their spirited display albeit without much success in Egypt and it would be interesting to see how far they have both overcome their AFCON failures.
Tanzania will be away to Burundi in Bujumbura on Wednesday
Despite recent progress and qualification to the AFCON for only the first time in their history, Les Hirondelles of Burundi failed to go past the group stage in Egypt -- losing all three matches and no goal to their name. Ditto Tanzania, who returned to the AFCON for the first time since their debut in 1980, suffered similar fate by losing all three group stage matches and have since sacked their Nigerian coach, Emmanuel Amuneke.
The Nigerian and 1994 CAF Player of the Year has subsequently being replaced by Burundi-born Etienne Ndayiragije, who was handed the job though on interim capacity due to his excellent work on the domestic Tanzanian scene with Kinondoni Municipal Council FC.
The 40-year-old Ndayiragije has seemingly passed the litmus test when his side last month eliminated Kenya from the African Nations Championship (CHAN) and Tanzanians would expect his winning wand continues in the upcoming ties against Burundi.
Similarly, this 2022 World Cup qualification would be an opportunity for rebuilding process for teams like Namibia and Zimbabwe after they both sacked coaches after wishy-washy performances at the AFCON in Egypt.
The Warriors were eliminated in the group stage after losing to the hosts (Egypt) and Democratic Republic of Congo , and managed a draw against Uganda but they have a new man in charge following the appointment of Joey Antipas as a replacement for Sunday Chidzambga.
Antipas, who won the Zimbabwean domestic league with Motor Action in 2010 and Chicken Inn in 2015, will lead the Warriors away to the Ocean Stars of Somalia for a first leg match slated for El Hadj Hassan Gouled Aptidon Stadium in Djibouti due to security concerns in the Somalia.
Namibia will play as guests of Eritrea in Asmara on Wednesday
In the same vein, the Brave Warriors of Namibia will be led out by new coach Bobby Samaria against Eritrea in Asmara. Samaria who replaced Ricardo Mannetti after the team’s poor performance at the AFCON where they lost all matches including that 4-1 listless performance against Cote d’Ivoire at 30 June Stadium in Cairo.
Incidentally, Angola that narrowly missed out of the second round knockout stage at the AFCON, also has an interim coach in place for the double header against The Scorpions of Gambia following elevation of Portuguese Pedro Gonclaves from the U-17 team (Palanquinhas) in the place of Srdan Vasiljevic.
However, Gambia’s Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet would undoubtedly be under scrutiny after he reportedly left out experienced trio of Hadjuk Split midfielder Hamza Barry as well as Saudi-based Boubacarr Steve Trawally and former Swansea winger Modou Barrow.
“On the basis of the results we have achieved recently, the reference point for this group has allowed us to maintain a strong core group of players with good blend of experience and youth,” Saintfiet told the local media.
Elsewhere, all eyes will keenly be on Togo as the West Africans bid again for a World Cup ticket since their historic appearance in 2006, much more so under the guidance of vastly experienced and nomadic French coach, Claude Le Roy.
Comoros will welcome Togo to Moroni
The 71-year-old with varied experiences across the continent including managing the national teams of Cameroun, Ghana, Senegal, DR Congo and amongst others, has broken away from the past by leaving out both controversial captain Emmanuel Adebayor and veteran midfielder Alaixys Romao for the double header against Comoros.
In other games, neighbours Liberia and Sierra Leone will cross swords in Monrovia, Mauritius against Mozambique in Belle Vue whereas Portuguese-speaking duo Sao Tome and Guinea Bissau face off in Sao Tome.
04.09.2019 Bujumbura: Burundi vs Tanzania
04.09.2019 Bahir Dar: Ethiopia vs Lesotho
04.09.2019 Asmara: Eritrea vs Namibia
04.09.2019 Monrovia: Liberia vs Sierra Leone
04.09.2019 Belle Vue: Mauritius vs Mozambique
04.09.2019 Sao Tome: Sao Tome vs Guinea Bissau
04.09.2019 Omdurman: South Sudan vs Equatorial Guinea
05.09.2019 Djibouti: Somalia vs Zimbabwe
05.09.2019 Ndjamena: Chad vs Sudan
05.09.2019 Victoria: Seychelles vs Rwanda
06.09.2019 Bakau: Gambia vs Angola
06.09.2019 Moroni: Comoros vs Togo
07.09.2019 Djibouti: Djibouti vs Eswatini
07.09.2019 Francistown: Botswana vs Malawi