MUKWIMA CHILALA writes
THE Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced the 2022 World Cup qualifiers format for Africa, which are the same as those used in the 2014 qualifiers.
The new format will go through three phases with the first step being a preliminary round.
According to a circular on CAF online.com, the 26 highest ranked teams, according to the FIFA ranking, will be exempted from the preliminary round leaving 28 participating teams in that round.
Of these 28 teams, the 14 highest ranked teams will play against the least ranked teams with the first leg to be played at home of the lowest ranked teams.
The second stage will be the Group stage which will see the 14 winning teams of the preliminary round joining the 26 exempted teams in the Group Stage and will be divided into 10 groups of 4 teams.
The draw of the groups will be based on the seeding of the 40 teams into four levels according to the FIFA ranking as each group will contain a team of each level.
In the Knock-out stage winners of the 10 groups will be divided into two levels according to the FIFA ranking.
The five highest ranked teams will play against the lowest ranked teams with the first leg to be played at home of the lowest ranked teams.
This format comes as a switch from the system used in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in the African zone, which consisted of two preliminary knock-out stages and a subsequent group stage.
Twenty teams were divided into five groups and the winners directly qualified for the football’s most prestigious showpiece.
Zambia has never qualified to the World Cup but came close in the 2014 qualifiers having lost out on a spot kick out to Ghana on the last day of the qualifiers in 2013.
Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia represented Africa at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.