The draw for the African qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup in football – tomorrow, Thursday, in Abidjan – will reveal the fate of 54 teams, including Morocco, which won the resounding surprise in the last World Cup in Qatar when it reached the semi-finals.
Hours before the General Assembly of the African Union in Ivory Coast, the draw will distribute the 54 teams into 9 groups of 6 teams, so that the champion of each group will qualify directly for the expanded finals, which will include 48 teams instead of 32.
As for the best 4 teams that rank second in their group, the qualifiers will compete in a continental play-off, with 5 teams in an international play-off to secure an additional seat in the World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
In the event that the African team guarantees this additional seat, the number of representatives of the continent will rise to 10 compared to 5 in the World Cup in Qatar.
Morocco became the first African team to reach the semi-finals, defeating Spain and Portugal on its way to this round, and leading a strong group that includes Croatia and Belgium, before falling to the Qatari World Cup runner-up (France) and then finishing fourth by losing to Croatia.
Africa was represented in the Qatar finals by Morocco, Cameroon, Ghana and Tunisia, as well as Senegal – who accompanied his Moroccan counterpart to the round of 16 – before losing to England 3-0.
Among the nine teams in the first pot, there are Egypt and Algeria, in addition to Nigeria, Mali and Ivory Coast, and only Ghana, among the participants in the last World Cup, was classified in the second level.
The FIFA rankings issued in June were calculated to determine the six levels, so Ghana was ranked 11th.
Mali was the biggest beneficiary of the classification, as it jumped to the eighth after its victory over the Republic of the Congo 2-0 in the African Nations qualifiers.
Solutions among the top nine will allow them to avoid the elite teams, such as Morocco and Senegal, whose star Sadio Mane was absent in the last World Cup.
And while the 54 teams will enter the qualifiers, Zimbabwe has escaped a FIFA ban since February 2022 due to political interference in football, after the ban was lifted last Monday.
Zimbabwe was excluded from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers for failing to pay the salaries of former Brazilian coach Jose Claudini Georgini.
The six levels are:
- level one: Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and Ivory Coast.
- Second Level: Burkina Faso, Ghana, South Africa, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Zambia, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
- The third level: Uganda, Benin, Mauritania, Kenya, Congo, Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, Namibia and Angola.
- fourth level: Mozambique, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Central Africa, Malawi and Libya.
- level five: Niger, Comoros, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Botswana and Liberia.
- Sixth level: Lesotho, South Sudan, Mauritius, Chad, Sao Tome and Principe, Djibouti, Seychelles, Eritrea and Somalia.