1. The qualifiers will serve as dress rehearsals for the 2023 AFCON
Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Nigeria are the favourites according to the bookmakers for the 2023 AFCON.
The opening fixtures will be the last international break before the jamboree in Ivory Coast in early next year. The coaches of all the qualified 24 teams will use the two games to finalise their selection.
There will not be more better preparations towards the AFCON than using World Cup qualifiers to prepare.
2. Chris Houghton is given a rumoured two-match ultimatum
Chris Houghton has been under immense pressure from the Ghana Football Association and among Ghaian football fanatics due to poor performance in 2023. The former Newcastle United manager is yet to convince Ghanaians after taking over from Otto Addo officially in February but has failed to let the team play the way
Ghanaians want. A rumoured two-game ultimatum vs Madagascar and Comoros in a space of five days can go a long way to determine his Black Stars’ fate.
A World Cup qualifier opener against Madagascar is the perfect fixture for Chris Houghton to prove something to his bosses.
3. The Eagles of Mali have every chance to qualify for their first-ever World Cup
Mali was just a victory away from qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup but ultimately failed at home against an experienced Tunisian side.
A wonderful generation of stars is available for Eric Sekou Chelle to challenge Ghana for the top spot to qualify automatically.
Hamari Toure, Yves Bissouma, Mohammed Camara, Diadie Samassekou, Cheick Doucoure, Sikou Niakate, Almamy Toure, Amadou Haidara, Aliou Dieng and Kiki Kouyate are talented players who can give every opponent on the continent a good run for their money.
An opening fixture against Chad is the perfect one for the Eagles as expectations are high back home.
4. Morocco is the haven of seven other countries
Ethiopia, Sao Tome, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, Niger and Somalia have chosen to play their home games in Morocco for the first international break for the qualifiers due to their respective venues not being up to the required FIFA standard. El-Jadida, Marrakesh, Berkane, Oujda and Agdir are the cities that will host these countries. Morocco will host 9 different matches across the two match days.
•Ethiopia vs Sierra Leone
•Burkina Faso vs Guinea Bissau
•Guinea vs Uganda
•Niger vs Tanzania
•Chad vs Madagascar
•Somalia vs Uganda
•Ethiopia vs Burkina Faso
•Niger vs Zambia
•Sao Tome vs Namibia
5 . Will Hugo Brooks end South Africa’s 16-year wait for the World Cup?
South Africa played in the 2010 World Cup by being the host. They have since then missed every World Cup. The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be 16 years since South Africa last played at the pinnacle of international football.
The Bafana Bafana in a group alongside Nigeria, Rwanda, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Benin will fancy their chance to qualify.
They will open their campaign with a game against Benin at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Masandawana contingency; Ronwen Williams, Grant Kekana, Aubrey Modiba, Mothobi Mvala, Khuliso Mudau, Teboho Mokoena, Themba Zwane and Thapelo Maseko- fresh from winning the African Football League will be full of confidence ahead of Bafana Bafana’s games against Benin and Rwanda.
With 3 World Cup appearances, can the Bafana Bafana pip the Super Green Eagles of Nigeria and Chipolopolos of Zambia?
6. Ivory Coast has missed the last two World Cups
Ivory Coast played their first World Cup in 2006. They were led by the dangerous Didier Drogba alongside midfield maestro Yaya Toure. Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue and Salomo Kalou all contributed immensely to the success of the Elephant.
They qualified also for the next two albeit never made it past the group stages.
In a new era being led by skipper Serge Aurier and Dortmund striker Sebastien Haller, the Ivorians have what it takes to make it to the USA-Canada-Mexico World Cup in 2026.
With a home game against Seychelles and an away fixture in Dares Salaam in Tanzania against the Gambia, Ivory Coast will be eager to secure wins against these two opponents to brighten their chances of qualifying.
7. Can Serhou Guirrasy lead Guinea to their first World Cup
A lot will be expected from Serhou Guirassy as Guinea bids to qualify for their first-ever FIFA World Cup.
Guirassy, 27, is expected to transform his club form from Stuttgart to the Guinean National team after scoring 15 Bundesliga goals. With the likes of Mohammed Bayo, Aguibou Camara, Morgan Guilavogui, Francois Kamano and Amadou Diawara supporting him, Guinea may fancy their chances albeit they are in the same group as Algeria.
Naby Keita, skipper for Guinea has been replaced by Amadou Keita, the KAS Eupen midfielder, due to injuries.
Guinea plays against Uganda and Botswana in their opening two games of the qualifiers.
8. Mane, Mahrez and Salah’s last chance saloon
What an incredible trio. Imagine these three forwards leading your attack.
The last decade of the African game has been dominated by these forwards. They have made their names in the EPL, UCL and AFCON. They have been to the World Cup at least once but none of them has been super at that big stage.
The trio has the last opportunity to go and replicate Rojer Miller or Asamoah Gyan’s great performances at the World Cup. They will certainly be eager to play at their last World Cup before hanging their boots.
9. Osimhen ready to taste FIFA World Cup
Nigeria missed Qatar 2022 when they lost on the away goal rule to Ghana. Victor Osimhen and Co were disappointed to have missed the tournament. In a group alongside South Africa, Benin, Rwanda, Lesotho and Zimbabwe, the Super Eagles have every chance to qualify for the USA-Mexico-Canada 2026.
With Victor Osimhen, Victor Boniface, Moses Simon, Terim Moffi, Ademola Lookman, Kelechi Iheanacho and Taiwo Awoniyi upfront, Nigeria will give their opponents a hell of a time.
Nigeria will host Lesotho and travel to Zimbabwe in their opening games.
10. Will Cameroon make it a record 9th appearance at the World Cup?
Cameroon is the most experienced team on the continent when it comes to the World Cup having qualified for the competition on eight occasions. They are preparing to extend the record to 9th to lengthen the record over the other big boys on the continent in terms of appearance.
Rigobert Song is one of the few coaches to play at the World Cup and also manage his nation at the World Cup. He knows all that it takes to qualify for the World Cup as he did against Algeria in the crucial play-off match for Qatar 2022.
Cameroon is in the same group as Libya, Mauritius, Eswatini, Angola and Cape Verde with an opening game against Mauritius at home followed by an away game against Libya.